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Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

BBC Podcast: Nadia Davids, Lauren Beukes and SJ Naude Discuss Cape Town – Place and Contested Space

Three Umuzi authors were featured in the latest edition of BBC World’s “Writing a New South Africa” series.

Broken MonstersAn Imperfect BlessingThe Alphabet of BirdsThabiso Mohare, a street poet from Johannesburg, travelled to Cape Town to hear more about beautiful yet complex Mothercity which has inspired so many authors to write incredible works. He spoke to Nadia Davids (An Imperfect Blessing), Lauren Beukes (Broken Monsters) and SJ Naudé (Alphabet of Birds) as well as poets Nathan Trantraal, Ronelda Kamfer and Toni Stuart and literary activist Thando Mgqolozana.

The discussion was centred around the theme “Cape Town: Place and Contested Space” and offered insight into the authors’ views on the history of the city and how it affects the work of writers, poets and playwrights.

Davids spoke about the undealt-with legacy of slavery in the city; Beukes shared why her sci-fi visions of South African cities are so popular; Naude helped Mohare uncover roots of a language that was appropriated as a tool of oppression but is still felt to be a language of struggle and resistance among the communities where it originated.

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New Podcast Series from Short Story Day Africa: Diane Awerbuck Reads a Short Story by Ivan Vladislavic

Short Story Day Africa has introduced a new podcast series, with the first episode featuring Diane Awerbuck reading Ivan Vladislavić’s “Hair Shirt”, which comes from his new collection of short stories, 101 Detectives.

Home RemediesCabin FeverGardening At Night
101 DetectivesThe FollyThe Restless SupermarketPortrait with KeysDouble NegativeFlashback Hotel


Awerbuck, who is the author of Gardening at Night, Cabin Fever and Home Remedies, says she chose this particular story because it deals with the idea of the outsider in a number of interesting ways.

Following her reading, Awerbuck chats to Donal Davern about the story.

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Henrietta Rose-Innes and SJ Naude to Feature at the London Short Story Festival

Two local authors will represent South Africa and Umuzi at the London Short Story Festival this year – Henrietta Rose-Innes, author of Green Lion and Nineveh, and SJ Naudé, author of The Alphabet of Birds.

Green LionNinevehThe Alphabet of BirdsAlfabet van die voëls

On Saturday, 20 June, Rose-Innes will talk about The Caine Prize for African Writing and read passages from her work. The event will take place from 1:30 to 2:30 PM.

Naudé will talk about translating his debut, Alfabet van die voëls, from Afrikaans into English on Saturday from 1 to 2 PM. On Sunday, 21 June, he will read some of his stories at the Word Factory from 2 to 3 PM.

All events will take place at Waterstones Piccadilly. For more information download the complete programme in PDF format.

If you find yourself in London during this time do drop on by!

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Join Masande Ntshanga and SJ Naude for a Literary Crossroads Event at the Goethe-Institut in Joburg

Invitation to Literary Crossroads

The Goethe-Institut Johannesburg invites you to another event in their Literary Crossroads – with Masande Ntshanga and SJ Naudé.

The discussion is entitled Chronists of Change and will take place on Tuesday, 2 June, at 7 PM. Entrance is free of charge.

The ReactiveThe Alphabet of BirdsAlfabet van die voëls

The evening will offer insights in two different literary landscapes and two different approaches how to respond to the real, existing world as a writer and intellectual.

Both writers portray a seemingly ordinary life, with protagonists who are sometimes marginalised, and sometimes alienated from society or from themselves. Both writers’ literary figures struggle with life and the societies they are living in and give us clues about how we respond to our changing worlds, the political and economic structures of our globalised time. We share the protagonists’ search for their little share of happiness or their place to call home – literally and metaphorically.

Event Details

  • Date: Tuesday, 2 June 2015
  • Time: 6:30 PM for 7:00 PM
  • Venue: Goethe-Institut Johannesburg
    119 Jan Smuts Ave
    2193 | Map
  • RSVP: 011 442 3232

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“He Knew There Were Tricks”: Read the Titular Story from 101 Detectives by Ivan Vladislavic

101 Detectives101 Detectives by Ivan Vladislavić is a wide-ranging collection of short stories, written over an extensive period of time with some dating as far back as 1996.

While still hot off the press, 101 Detectives was longlisted for the 2015 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the world’s richest prize for a collection of short stories, proving just how strong Vladislavić’s return to his metier is.

Mail & Guardian has shared the titular short story from this collection. Read it for a taste of what to expect from this long-awaited publication:

He knew there were tricks – no – not tricks, techniques, there are techniques for getting to see what you’re not supposed to. Let’s say the register at reception in the hotel lobby. You drop the pen or you fake a cough and ask for a glass of water, and while the clerk is distracted you quickly turn the book your way and scan the page for what you’re after. Let’s say the room number of a particular person. Or let’s say the name of a particular person occupying a certain room the number of which is no mystery. He knew all that.

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Ivan Vladislavic Chats About His Decision to Dedicate 101 Detectives to Chris van Wyk

101 DetectivesIvan Vladislavić was in the Classic FM studio recently to chat about his new collection of short stories, 101 Detectives.

Vladislavić’s latest book has been eagerly received, and he says it was the product of many years of writing.

“It’s quite a wide-ranging collection in terms of the times in which the stories were written, because I haven’t had an actual book of stories since 1996,” Vladislavić says.

“In fact, the first story in this book, ‘The Fugu-eaters’, goes back to that same year. So there’s a range of pieces – the most recent ones were written in the middle of last year, just before the book went into production, so there’s around 20 years of work there.”

101 Detectives is dedicated to Chris van Wyk, the beloved South Africa poet, editor and author who died in October last year.

Van Wyk worked as an editor at the literary magazine Staffrider, and wrote one of the most quoted anti-apartheid poems, “In Detention”, winning the Olive Schreiner Prize for the collection it appeared in. But it was his memoirs, Shirley, Goodness & Mercy and Eggs to Lay, Chickens to Hatch, that brought him widespread acclaim.

“It’s something that pains me deeply,” Vladislavić says. “I think Chris had really found his voice as a writer over the last years, and I know that he was working on a novel, had been for many years, and I was just waiting with huge excitement to see where he had gone with the skills he had learnt as a memoirist, applying them in the world of fiction.

“I think it’s a huge loss.”

Listen to the podcast:

101 Detectives will be launched at Love Books on Wednesday, 6 May, with award-winning author Dominique Botha in conversation with Vladislavić. Click here for details.

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Read an Excerpt from Ivan Vladislavic’s New Short Story Collection, 101 Detectives

Ivan Vladislavic

101 DetectivesGranta has shared the first excerpt from Ivan Vladislavić’s much anticipated new short story collection, 101 Detectives.

The excerpt is the fourth story in the collection, titled “Exit Strategy”, about a corporate storyteller who is anything but content:

The corporate storyteller is having a bad day. She’s spent the morning in her office on the 11th floor peering at the monitor, occasionally typing a line and deleting it, or standing at the window, back turned on the recitation pod, looking down into the square. She doesn’t like the view and so the force with which it draws her to the window is all the more irritating. The square is a paved rectangle, to be precise, enclosed in a shopping mall and surrounded by restaurant terraces. She sees an arrangement of rooftops suggesting office parks, housing complexes and parking garages, and streets nearly devoid of life. No one walks around here if they can help it.

While she’s been musing, the monitor has gone to sleep. In its inky depths she sees the outline of her head, a darker blot with a spiky crown. Not yet thirty, she thinks grimly, and already as gnarled as an old vine. She badly needs a story for the quarterly meeting of the board, a parable to open proceedings and set the tone. Just a week after that it’s the annual Green Day, which demands fresh and leafy input. Which aquifer will she draw it from?

She scoots her chair aside to face the white slab of the desktop. This paperless expanse, a mockery of a blank page, usually makes her long for clutter, for a glass paperweight with a daisy inside it and a tangle of paper clips, but today it’s as refreshing to her eye as a block of ice. She rests her forearms on the desk, palms flat and fingers splayed, and then she sinks down in submission until her forehead touches the cool veneer.

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Presenting Ivan Vladislavic’s New Collection of Short Stories: 101 Detectives

Ivan Vladislavic

101 DetectivesUmuzi is proud to present 101 Detectives, a collection of short stories from award-winning author Ivan Vladislavić:

A private-eye convention and a tussle over a Pierneef. A young man’s unsettling experience in the American South and a tragedy off the coast of Mauritius. A bizarre night of industrial theatre and a translator at a loss for words.

These are but a few of the fictions in 101 Detectives, a new collection of short stories by Vladislavić, one of South Africa’s most celebrated authors.

A collection of short stories launched his career as a writer. 26 years and a whole oeuvre later, 101 Detectives showcases Vladislavić’s virtuosity as he bends and recasts this literary form in spectacular fashion.

About the author

Ivan Vladislavić is a novelist, essayist and editor. He lives in Johannesburg where he is a Distinguished Professor in Creative Writing at the University of the Witwatersrand.

His books include The Folly, The Restless Supermarket, Portrait with Keys and Double Negative. Among his recent publications are Flashback Hotel, a compendium of early stories, and The Loss Library, a reflection on writing.

He has edited volumes on architecture and art. His work has won several prizes, including the University of Johannesburg Prize, the Sunday Times Fiction Prize and the Alan Paton Award for non-fiction. In 2015, he was awarded Yale University’s Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction.

The FollyThe Restless SupermarketPortrait with KeysDouble NegativeFlashback Hotel



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Excerpt: “A Master from Germany” from SJ Naude’s The Alphabet of Birds

The Alphabet of BirdsThe Alphabet of Birds is a collection of seven short stories by SJ Naudé that scrutinises South Africans at home and abroad.

“A Master from Germany” is a story about a man visiting his lover, Joschka. He follows Joschka, “the dark prince of Berlin nightlife”, through clouds of cocaine, rivers of drink and a populous country of unfamiliar names and faces that he could never remember.

Read the excerpt:

* * * * *

Excerpt from “A Master from Germany”

Shortly before his mother’s death he sees her naked for the first time in his life.

He enters the bedroom. The bathroom door has been left open, in case she should fall or lose consciousness. It frames her: the body shapeless, the small towel she quickly presses against herself too small to cover her lower abdomen. Each pubic hair with a drop of clear water clinging to the tip. They both look away. Later they pretend it never happened.

Let’s first go back in time, a few months, to where he is standing, halfway down the cellar stairs, looking up at Joschka. Joschka is hesitant, calling him back, a large old-fashioned key in his hand. They are staying at Joschka’s brother-in-law’s castle, Burg Heimhof, in the Oberpfalz, not far from Nuremberg.

The castle sits on a rocky promontory, overlooking a quiet little Bavarian valley through which a Harley Davidson roars once or twice a day. The castle has a waterless moat on one side; on the other side it overlooks the edge of the cliff. The moat is overgrown and scattered with rubble. There is an eighteenth-century gate with metal-plated doors and ornamental carpentry. The part of the castle in which they are standing dates from the eleventh century. It is five storeys high. The oak floors have partially collapsed. The stairs, too, are broken off in places: as you ascend, they suddenly vanish. If you look down, you can see through three floors, all the way to the stairs descending to the cellar. If you look up, there are pigeons beneath heavy beams, light radiating through holes in the roof. The broken lines of the floors and stairs and beams form a three-dimensional diagram, an optical illusion. It is hard to get a grip on scale. Through openings in the wall you can see fragments of the valley and surrounding hills and forests, the hamlet at the foot. On the metre-wide sills there are birds’ nests.

Joschka’s brother-in-law, whose parents bought this castle from the German government for a song shortly after the war, has been restoring one room on the middle floor for decades. Painfully precise: wall paintings of knights and unicorns, floors and ceilings of reclaimed Southern German oak, torches on the walls. A knight’s armour stands in the corner with a lance clutched in the gauntlet. You could imagine that he is still in there.

A strange sensation: standing in a beautiful room, but when you open a door, you are in a ruin. Or let’s go back a week further. Berlin. They are staying with Joschka’s friends Aarik and Wilfred in Kreuzberg. Joschka lived in Berlin for a few years before moving to London, where they met. It is Joschka’s opportunity to show him his Berlin, everything from the sublime to the abject. Mostly the abject.

On the first evening there, they go out on the town. They move from bar to restaurant to party to bar to party to underground event to nightclub. They meet friends of Joschka’s, and acquaintances. And friends and acquaintances of friends and acquaintances. Joschka snorts too much cocaine in toilets. He moves with purpose, as if heading somewhere, as if his feet are lifting off the street. There are taxis, long walks through wide streets, lifts in speeding cars. From Kreuzberg to Schöneberg to Mitte, to Prenzlauer Berg and back to Mitte. They join people and take their leave, meet and move on: a night of greeting and departure, of random trips and changes of direction. He drinks too much himself, swallows or snorts things he is offered without knowing what they are. There are times when they linger – sometimes it feels like an eternity, sometimes like seconds – in apartments all over town. The places of friends and acquaintances – or those of strangers. Fragmented conversations, shared cigarettes. Apartments overlooking courtyard gardens, one on the Landwehrkanal, a penthouse by the Spree, a place in Mitte deep inside the Hackesche Höfe, another next to the gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg. A place in a massive Communist-era block by Alexanderplatz. Here he stands on a little concrete balcony next to a blonde nymph dressed in metallic tights. The Fernsehturm’s sphere hovers above them like a disco ball.

Everywhere there are people; all of them know Joschka. They remember him or know of him, have something to say about him (‘ein wilder Junge, this guy of yours,’ or someone nodding in Joschka’s direction, a kind of hero worship in his eyes: ‘Der dunkle Prinz des Nachtlebens dieser Stadt, dein Freund’). Joschka as the dark prince of Berlin nightlife: he is not all that surprised. He meets all of those milling around Joschka, immediately forgets their names again. In one place there are Ulrich, Aloysius, Ebermud, Detlef, Ida and Petra. Elsewhere there are Arno, Theodulf, Finn, Christian, Ava, Till, Lauri, Eriulf, Hilderic, Reiner and Ervig. In diverse places they encounter Sven, Nardo, Hugo and Wolfgang. And then there are also Ladewig, Kai, Adelfriede, Leander, Monika, Arno, Irnfried . . . Or similar names. There is no end to the list.

Later he will be unable to recall large parts of that night. In reality it was probably two or three nights, people and events having since merged. Like shadows observed through a smoke-blackened pane.

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Ivan Vladislavic Need Not Live in the Shadow of JM Coetzee – Leon de Kock

“The award of the R1.5-million Windham Campbell prize for fiction to Ivan Vladislavić confirms a successful trajectory for his extended career in ‘marginal spaces’,” Leon de Kock writes in an article for the Mail and Guardian, reflecting on the impact and nature of Vladislavić’s career.

Bad SexThe FollyThe Restless SupermarketPortrait with KeysDouble NegativeThe Loss Library

De Kock, academic and author of Bad Sex, notes that while readers were caught up in writing by the likes of JM Coetzee, André Brink, Mongane Wally Serote and Nadine Gordimer, Vladislavić was writing in a different register but saying the same things. Vladislavić offered South Africans an introduction to postmodernism and surrealism while taking “significant artistic risks”.

Vladislavić’s new book, 101 Detectives, is out in April.

De Kock concludes that it is about time that international judges and critics start realising that Vladislavić “need not live in the shadow of JM Coetzee”, adding that “the moment could not have come sooner”:

The award of the R1.5-million Windham Campbell prize for fiction to Ivan Vladislavic confirms a successful trajectory for his extended career in “marginal spaces” – also the title of an academic book on the author.

That Vladislavic’s work has taken a long time – more than 20 years – to find resounding international recognition shouldn’t be too surprising.

His writing has never pandered to the prosaic or the obvious, or any other clear-cut category of reception. It has been, from the start, very worldly and also very local, more surreal than realist (especially the early work), and never easy to pin down.

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