South Africa has had various literature awards over the past decade or so. These awards mark the brilliant literature that comes out of the country each and every year and are a great place to start your reading lists. For brevity, I’ve only included a sample of winners, but I encourage you to browse the award websites for a more expansive list.
The South African Literary Awards
Founded by the wRite associates, in partnership with the national Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) in 2005, the main aim of the South African Literary Awards (SALA) is to pay tribute to South African writers who have distinguished themselves as ground-breaking producers and creators of literature, while it celebrates literary excellence in the depiction and sharing of South Africa’s histories, value systems, philosophies and art as inscribed and preserved in all the official languages of South Africa.
The Awards honour our living literary practitioners, legends and, where appropriate, others posthumously. To date, the South African Literary Awards has honoured 133 authors and they are becoming the most prestigious and respected literary accolades in South African literature. You can see past award recipients (and put them on your reading list) here.
2020 saw womxn take many of the awards. These are mentioned below.
First-time published author award: Lize Albertyn-Du Toit: Die Kinders van Spookwerwe (Afrikaans). ISBN: 9780798177207. GoodReads.
Poetry Award: Marlise Joubert: Grondwater (Afrikaans) ISBN: 9781485310204. GoodReads.
Creative Non-Fiction Award: Toni Strasburg: Holding the Fort. ISBN: 9780795709128. GoodReads.
Novel Award: Fiona Snyckers: Lacuna. ISBN: 9781770106406. GoodReads.
Literary Translators Award: Refiloe Moahluli: Yheke Yanga! (isiXhosa). ISBN: 9781770106659
Posthumous Literary Award: Makhokolotso Albertina Mokhomo (1929 – 2011) (Sesotho). For more on Mokhomo, the Matriarch of South African Sesotho Literature, see SALA’s piece on her, here.
The Sunday Times Literary Awards
The Sunday Times Literary Awards are composed of two awards, fiction and non-fiction, given by the South African newspaper the Sunday Times. The awards are the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize (formerly Sunday Times Fiction Prize 2001–14) and the Alan Paton Award for works of non-fiction (1989–present). In 2020 it was announced that from 2021, these awards would be called The Sunday Times CNA Literary Awards. Womxn have won several of these awards, and these are mentioned below.
Sunday Times Fiction Prize Winners
2019 – Sindiwe Gloria Ndlovu: The Theory of Flight. ISBN: 9781946395412. GoodReads.
2014 – Claire Robertson: The Spiral House. ISBN: 9781415207529. GoodReads.
2013 – Karen Jeyes: For the Mercy of Water. ISBN: 9780143530213. GoodReads.
2009: Anne Landsman: The Rowing Lesson: ISBN: 9780795702624. GoodReads.
2008: Ceridwen Dovey: Blood Kin. ISBN: 9780670018567. GoodReads.
2007: Marlene Van Niekerk: Agaat. ISBN: 9780982503096 GoodReads.
2004: Rayda Jacobs: Confessions of a Gambler. ISBN: 9780795701603. GoodReads.
Sunday Times Non-Fiction Prize Winners
2019: Terry Kurgan: Everyone is Present: Essays on Photography, Memory and Family. ISBN: 9780994700964. GoodReads.
2016: Pumla Dineo Gqola: Rape: A South African Nightmare. ISBN: 9781920601522. GoodReads.
2013: Redi Thlabi: Endings and Beginnings. ISBN: 9781431404612. GoodReads.
2004: Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela: A Human Being Died That Night. ISBN: 9780618446599. GoodReads.
1999: Antjie Krog: Country of My Skull. ISBN: 9780099289791. GoodReads.
1996: Margaret McCord: The Calling of Katie Makanya. ISBN: 9780471246916. GoodReads.
The University of Johannesburg Prize for South African Writing in English
The University of Johannesburg Prize for South African Writing in English, also known as the UJ Prize, was instituted in 2006. It comprises two prizes, a main prize and a debut prize, given annually for “the best original creative work in English published in the previous calendar year”. The prizes are judged by a panel comprising four members of the Department of English at the University of Johannesburg, two academics from other universities and one member of the media or publishing industry. Womxn winners are listed below.
2019: Main Prize: Gabeba Baderoon: The History of Intimacy. ISBN: 9780795708886
2018: Debut Prize: Barbara Boswell: Grace. ISBN: 9781928215240. GoodReads.
2017: Debut Prize: Mohale Mashigo: The Yearning. ISBN: 9781770105522. GoodReads.
2016: Debut Prize: Eliza Kentridge: Signs for an Exhibition. ISBN: 9781920590796. GoodReads
2015: Debut Prize: Penny Busetto: The Story of Anna P, As Told By Herself. ISBN: 9781431410163. GoodReads.
2014: Main Prize: Lauren Beukes: The Shining Girls. ISBN: 9780316216869. GoodReads.
2014: Debut Prize: Dominique Botha: False River. ISBN: 9781415207505. GoodReads.
2012: Debut Prize: Terry Westby-Nunn: The Sea of Wise Insects. ISBN: 9781431401666. GoodReads.
2011: Debut Prize: Shaida Ali: Not a Fairy Tale. ISBN: 9781415201121. GoodReads
This month’s blog is curated by Jen Thorpe.
Jen Thorpe is a feminist writer. Her first novel, The Peculiars (2016), was long listed for the Etisalat Prize for Literature (2016) and the Sunday Times Fiction Prize (2017). Her second novel, The Fall, was published in July 2020. Thorpe has edited three collections of feminist essays – My First Time: Stories of Sex and Sexuality from Women Like You (2012); Feminism Is: South Africans Speak Their Truth (2018) and Living While Feminist (2020). Her writing has been published in Brittle Paper, Saraba Magazine, Jalada, and Litro. Find out more via https://jen-thorpe.com. Jen is also the host of the Living While Feminist Podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor, or wherever you get your podcasts.