South Africa: We Need New (Literary) Awards


Perhaps it's time to do away with South Africa's literary awards - or, rather, scrap the old prizes in favour of new ones.

Have you heard about the latest scandal to rock South Africa's beleaguered bunch of literary awards?

I thought not.

Have a guess, then. Is it -

(a) The country's most prestigious awards, the Sunday Times Fiction Prize and Alan Paton Award for Non-fiction, seem to have vanished without so much as a whisper of explanation, having last been heard from in September 2019, when that year's winners - possibly the final two? - were announced.

(b) The country's most insular awards, the Media24 Books Literary Prizes - which are given to in-house titles - set a new standard for, well, insularity, by recognising only white writers this year. (They went seven for seven - quite an outrageous feat).

(c) It's 26 years into democracy and, of South Africa's major literary prizes, just three are named for black writers. Bonus points if you can list the three. Hint: one writer lends his name to two of them.

If you answered 'all of the above', you've been paying attention.

I've been paying attention, too - but that's all I've...

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