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Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

Revealed! The Joey Hi-Fi cover for A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg: A City Novel by Harry Kalmer (Plus: Excerpt)

Revealed! The Joey Hi-Fi cover for A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg by Harry Kalmer

Penguin Books South Africa has revealed the cover for A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg – Harry Kalmer’s new novel – designed by the legendary Joey Hi-Fi.

A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg is the English translation of the critically acclaimed ‘n Duisend stories oor Johannesburg, which was shortlisted for seven Afrikaans literary awards.

A Thousand Tales of JohannesburgThe book tells the story of a city, its architecture, its history and its diverse communities, from the pre-Johannesburg Highveld of the 1880s to the xenophobia of 2008.

Scroll down for an excerpt!

Kalmer has written 23 plays and six works of fiction, but A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg is his first book in English.
The author says:

A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg: A City Novel is my first book in English. I wanted it to look special so I asked publisher Fourie Botha to approach Joey Hi-Fi.

The book is set against the backdrop of the xenophobic violence of 2008. However architecture and specifically modernist architecture is central to the book. The postcard-like photo of Commissioner Street in the 1970s features two modernist buildings on the left and on the right, the deco New Library hotel against a Kodachrome blue Highveld sky.

There are so many things I love about this cover. The letters of the title mixing the old and the new. The torn photograph that allows old street maps, pictures and post cards to peak through as if to tell, like the book, the layered, tattered story of a constantly morphing city. Its history from mining camp to European Modernist skyline to the African megapolis it is today.

I chose Joey hoping he would do something as stark, modern and bold as some of his other work. Instead he created a cover that tells its own story before the reading even starts. An additional tale added to the many stories already inside the book.

Joey Hi-Fi describes the design process:

A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg is a moving and intricately interwoven tale about the inhabitants of Johannesburg. It spans more than a hundred years. From the late 1800s all the way through to 2008. The challenge here was to visually capture those stories and the passing of time in an authentic fashion. Something that was true to the characters therein as well as the tone and mood of the novel.

My concept for the cover was sparked by the many references to photographs in the novel. And since photographs are a record of the passing of time, I wondered: What if all the decades spanned in A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg collided in one photograph? And what if that photograph had been torn and worn away to reveal past events? Much like an archaeological excavation, where the deeper you dig the further into the past you go. In a way it is a metaphor for the city itself. The new built upon the old. Scratch beneath the surface and you will unearth some clue to the past.

So I decided to combine typography, illustration and photography in an intricately assembled collage. One photo that incorporated all the decades covered in the novel. I wanted the cover to have a measure of authenticity. To look as much as possible like a photograph of a Johannesburg street scene that has been crumpled, torn and weathered by the passing of time. To do this I redrew old maps of Johannesburg, illustrated and collaged together Johannesburg street scenes (from various decades) and recreated Boer prisoner of war letters. The cover typography is inspired by the lettering found on old maps from the early 1900s. Each element on the cover reflects some event or character in the novel.

Designing this cover was a fascinating deep dive into the rich history of Johannesburg and its people. A history which Harry Kalmer has beautifully captured in A Thousand Tales Of Johannesburg.

About the book

A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg is Harry Kalmer’s spellbinding ode to Johannesburg and its people.

This is the story of Sara, who poses stiffly for a photo with her four children at Turffontein concentration camp in 1901, and of Abraham, who paints the street names on Johannesburg’s kerbs. It is the tale of their grandson Zweig, a young architect who has to leave Johannesburg when he falls in love with the wrong person, and of Marceline, a Congolese mother who flees to the city only to be caught up in a wave of xenophobic violence.

Spanning more than a hundred years, A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg is a novel that documents and probes the lives of the inhabitants of this incomparable African city – the exiled, those returning from exile, and those who never left.

About the author

Harry Kalmer is an award-winning playwright and novelist who has authored six works of fiction and 32 plays. His novel En die lekkerste deel van dood wees was the runner-up in the 2007 Sanlam/Insig Groot Roman competition. Briewe aan ‘n rooi dak, based on the letters of Magdalena Otto, received the Anglo-Gold Aardklop award for best new drama in 2001, and was adapted for television and broadcast. In 2014, his drama The Bram Fischer Waltz won the Adelaide Tambo Award for Human Rights in the Arts. He lives in Johannesburg.

Excerpt from A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg

‘What is it like to be back in Johannesburg?’ Meredith’s voice sounded thin over the phone from Seattle.

‘Odd. It’s very different from when I left.’

‘It’s more than forty years, Dad. Places change, time moves on.’

‘I know but it is totally different. It is like an African city.’

‘It is an African city.’

Zweig did not respond. To speak about the emotions he had felt since his arrival in Johannesburg three
hours earlier would have been too difficult. Instead he asked her about work.

He remained seated on the bed with the phone in his hand after the conversation ended and realised how little he and Serenita had told their daughters about Johannesburg. To them it was merely the place where their parents lived before they moved to London.

Zweig felt like some Bach, but his iPod wasn’t charged. He craved a cigarette for the first time in fifteen years. The white telephone on the white bedside table rang. Cherie asked if he wanted white or red wine with his dinner.

Zweig put on clean clothes. A few minutes later Cherie was at the door with a plate of food, a glass and a carafe of white wine. She placed it on a coffee table. Arabic music was playing somewhere in the hotel. Zweig sat down in one of the chairs and poured a glass of wine. The chicken was tasty. It was the first meat he had eaten in a long time.

When he had finished his meal, he once again picked up the copy of Moby Dick but still found it difficult to read.

He undressed and took a photo of Serenita in a standing frame from his shoulder bag.

‘You won’t believe it, Serenita.’ He smiled at the photo. ‘I’m back in Johannesburg. An old man in his vest and his underpants sitting at the edge of a bed.’

He unfolded the back support strut of the frame and placed it on the table.
Then he climbed in under the duvet and turned off the bedside light.

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I Will Probably Wrestle with the Notion of Being an African for the Rest of My Life – Ivan Vladislavic

101 DetectivesThe FollyDouble NegativeThe Loss Library The Restless SupermarketPortrait with Keys

Ivan Vladislavić recently travelled to the US to launch the North American edition of The Folly and celebrate his 2015 Windham Campbell Prize for Fiction during the Windham Campbell Prize Festival at Yale University.

The esteemed South African writer stopped by Bard College for a special event where he read from his works and discussed his literature and all that it entails with novelist Nuruddin Farah and poet Robert Kelly. Literary Hub transcribed the conversation and have published it on their site.

Farah and Kelly asked a myriad questions, and led the conversation in many incredibly interesting directions. Read the edited transcript to see what Vladislavić said when asked by Farah, “When did you start to think of yourself as an African?”:

I grew up thinking of myself as a South African, with no real sense that this was an exclusionary category. Bear in mind that I was a child in the harshest period of apartheid. I was born in the late 1950s, so I was a child in the particularly repressive period of the 60s, when the opposition had been more or less shattered or forced underground, and people had been driven into exile. I grew up in Pretoria, which was the seat of government, in a very conservative, racist white environment. As I say, my family gave me a rather proud sense of being a South African. I guess the question is whether the “African” in that “South African” had a content that extended beyond the borders of the country, or beyond a narrowly conceived white identity. I certainly didn’t think I was a “European,” although the term was applied to white South Africans. I became conscientized about South Africa and its politics when I went to university in the mid-70s, where questions of identity were being discussed very intensely. There were programs of what we called “Africanization” among white students on some campuses and there were campaigns that drew attention to the fact that as white South Africans, we were not fully rooted in our own space, in our own country. Then I began to think about the idea of being an African —of actually being in Africa—in a different way. Living in a democratic society has given me a different, fuller sense of being an African, partly because our country is more open to seeing itself as part of Africa. Still, it’s not a simple notion for me, and I will probably wrestle with it for the rest of my life.

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Image courtesy of Windham Campbell Prize

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Londoners: Join SJ Naude, John Boyne and Kirsty Logan for a Short Story Salon at The Word Factory

SJ Naude

The Alphabet of BirdsAlfabet van die voëlsSJ Naudé, author of the award-winning collection of short stories The Alphabet of Birds, will be joining Ireland’s John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, and Kirsty Logan, author of The Rental Heart & Other Fairytales, for an intimate short story salon in London next weekend.

The event, organised by The Word Factory, will see these three esteemed authors discuss and read their short stories on Saturday, 28 November. Tickets cost £12, or £8 if you are a student, senior citizen, unwaged or disabled.

The Word Factory will also be hosting a masterclass titled “Be Seen and Be Heard – and beat digital depression” on the same day. Host Kristen Harrison, a “publisher and digital agony aunt”, will teach participants how to build and maintain a web presence for their writing and showcase writers who have done so successfully. Tickets to this masterclass cost £38 and includes free entrance to the evening’s event with Naudé and co. Find out more.

Don’t miss this!

Event Details

  • Date: Saturday, 28 November 2015
  • Time: 1 to 4 PM – masterclass, 6 to 8 PM – salon
  • Venue: Waterstones
    203-206 Piccadilly
    W1J 9HD London
    United Kingdom
  • Speakers: SJ Naudé, John Boyne, Kirsty Logan, Kristen Harrison and the Visual Verse team
  • Cost: £38 for the masterclass; £12, or £8 if you are a student, senior citizen, unwaged or disabled for the salon
  • Buy tickets: Eventbrite


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Ivan Vladislavic Ponders Air Travel, Sherwood Anderson and Death by Unusual Causes on Lit Hub

101 DetectivesIvan Vladislavić has written a quirky but thoughtful piece for Literary Hub on an article he once read in an in-flight magazine.

Vladislavić was on his way to Stellenbosch University to take part in a “public conversation” with Marlene van Niekerk when he read the article, which was about “people who had met with death in some peculiar or memorable way”.

“Just the ticket when you’re about to leave the ground in an aeroplane,” Vladislavić says.

The article mentions some famous people who met unusual deaths, including stoic philosopher Chrysippus, “who laughed himself to death at the sight of a drunken donkey”, and legendary dancer Isadora Duncan, “who died of a broken neck when her long scarf got caught in the spoked wheel of an open car”. But it is the off-hand treatment of Sherwood Anderson’s demise that causes Vladislavić to brood over the piece and its implications.

But the story that brought a lump to my throat concerned Sherwood Anderson and the perils of putting things in your mouth. It was the shortest of the items that made up the article, a mere paragraph. This is what it said: “Take Mr Sherwood Anderson, for example, who swallowed a toothpick at a dinner party in 1941. This fairly successful writer later developed a case of peritonitis and his life and career came to a grim and painful end. Peritonitis is the inflammation of the serous membrane that lines the abdominal cavity, leading to infection, internal bleeding and a rather long and painful death.”

Several thoughts went through my head. I will order them below, because I am writing, but in truth they came to me in a jumble, as thoughts often do.

I thought: Poor old Sherwood.


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Ivan Vladislavic's First and Latest Books, The Folly and 101 Detectives, Hit America

101 DetectivesThe FollyTobias Carroll has written a piece for Electric Literature on Ivan Vladislavić’s The Folly and 101 Detectives, which are new to American shores.

The Folly was Vladislavić’s first novel, first published in 1993, while 101 Detectives, a collection of short stories, was published locally in April.

“Taken together,” Carroll says, “they offer a fuller picture of his skills as a writer.”

Read the article:

Corporate satire plays a part in several of these stories; for all that Vladislavić can understandably be compared to the likes of Teju Cole and Edward St. Aubyn, stories like “Exit Strategy,” whose main character is referred to as “the corporate storyteller,” and “Industrial Theater” call to mind the likes of Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island and David Foster Wallace’s “Mister Squishy.” Even the title story explores ideas of archetypes and employment, as a detective as a conference attempts to figure out just what sort of detective he happens to be.

Carroll, who came across Vladislavić’s work through Teju Cole’s introduction to Double Negative, interviewed the author for Vol.1 Brooklyn last year.

Vladislavić chatted about revisiting his work for republication, the continuities between the different versions of South Africa in his work, and the reception he had received in the US.

Read the interview:

What kind of a response are you getting to this novel and Double Negative from people in places where these books are appearing for the first time?

I’ve had a great response so far. I’ve been very pleased with the reviews so far of The Restless Supermarket, for instance. Double Negative feels a little different in that it was not published that long ago. The book appeared here in 2010 in a joint collection with a book of photography. The final version of the book only appeared in 2011. So there’s not much of a lag. It feels to me, more or less, like it’s happening in one concrete moment, if you like. Whereas with The Restless Supermarket, I had a distinct feeling that earlier work is being published. So far, I’ve been very happy with the response. I was a little apprehensive about publishing work that goes back a few years. I would have wondered at the time how the work would have been received outside of South Africa, because it has quite a lot of local references. That would have been an apprehension anyway. Now, one has the added thing of a bit of distance from the time that I wrote it. So far, we really seem to be engaging with readers of the book. I’ve been very happy with it.



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Spanish Translation of Henrietta Rose-Innes' Nineveh to be Launched in Mexico in October

Green LionNinevehHomingThe Rock AlphabetShark's Egg

Henrietta Rose-Innes has announced that her novel Nineveh will soon be launched in Mexico.

The Spanish translation of Nineveh will be published by Mexican publisher Almadia and Rose-Innes will be at the Oaxaca International Book Fair to launch the book in October.

Follow Henrietta Rose-Innes on Facebook for more:

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Image: Martin Figura

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Archipelago Books to Host Readings and Conversations with Ivan Vladislavic in USA

The Folly101 DetectivesArchipelago Books will be hosting Ivan Vladislavić in New York and Massachusetts during the month of October.

Vladislavić will be reading from his latest US release – The Folly – at four seperate events. 101 Detectives, an anthology of short stories, is the latest work by this celebrated South African author, published locally by Umuzi.

The four events sees him in conversation with renowned novelist and critic Katie Kitamura; Vanity Fair journalist and PEN World Voices advisor Anderson Tepper and University of Massachusetts director of Interdisciplinary Studies Stephen Clingman.

Don’t miss these opportunities to listen to one of South Africa’s greatest living authors!


  • Date: Monday, 5 October 2015
  • Time: 7 to 9 PM
  • Venue: Community Bookstore,
    143 Seventh Avenue,
    Brooklyn, NY 11215
    United States | Map
  • Interviewer: Katie Kitamura
  • More information: Archipelago Books

New York

  • Date: Tuesday, 6 October 2015
  • Time: 7 to 9 PM
  • Venue: Book Culture,
    450 Columbus Avenue
    New York, NY 10024
    United States | Map
  • Interviewer: Anderson Tepper
  • More information: Archipelago Books

Bard College

  • Date: Wednesday, 7 October 2015
  • Time: 7 to 9 PM
  • Venue: Bard College, Bard Hall
    70 N Ravine Roadd,
    Annandale-On-Hudson, NY 12504
    United States | Map
  • More information: Archipelago Books

University of Massachusetts Amherst


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Flashback Friday: Ivan Vladislavic Shares His List of Essential Reading

101 DetectivesThe FollyFlashback HotelDouble NegativeThe Loss Library The Restless Supermarket


This Flashback Friday, read Jan Steyn’s interview with Ivan Vladislavić, which ran in The White Review in 2012.

In the interview, Vladislavić discusses the visual art associated with his books, his reputation as Johannesburg’s “writer of place”, and his “desert island” list of four books.

Vladislavić says his list of essential reading is “too long and varied to make a sensible choice of four”, but names Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe, Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage by Tim Robinson and the Condensed Oxford Dictionary, the last on the advice of Aubrey Tearle, the narrator of The Restless Supermarket.

On writing, Vladislavić refers to a quotation by Italian writer Italo Calvino once told to him by Tim Couzens:

I’m always intrigued to hear what writers say when they’re asked this question. I obviously consider the reader to the extent that I hope someone will read what I’ve written and I expect them to get something from the exercise. But I cannot say that I think about this reader when I’m working. It feels to me like the contract is entirely between myself and the text; I am trying to resolve something for myself by working it through in language. What happens afterwards doesn’t concern me at the time. In this limited sense, you could say I’m writing for myself. Limited because I’m also not the intended reader; the pleasure for me is in the writing rather than the reading. Tim Couzens once told me something Calvino said about writing, to the effect that it was ‘hiding something so that the reader can find it’. This seems like a good description of the activity. When I’m ‘hiding something’ in written form, I imagine that someone will come looking, but I don’t know who this person is and I don’t consider how good their eyes are.

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Ivan Vladislavic on Winning the Windham Campbell Prize, Literary Festivals and "Corporate Storytellers"

101 DetectivesEarlier this year Ivan Vladislavić, Teju Cole and Helon Habila received the 2015 Windham Campbell Prizes for Fiction.

Karina Szczurek did an interview with the 101 Detectives author about his work and how the prestigious achievement has changed his writing life. “The prize money will come in useful,” Vladislavić told Szczurek.

On the subject of literary festivals, and the controversial debates that were sparked at this year’s Franschhoek Literary Festival, he said: “Festivals can serve all kinds of causes … But in my experience their primary function is to entertain readers.”

Szczurek also asked the author about the issues of writers as “corporate storytellers” as raised in 101 Detectives. Read the article:

Festivals as “marketing platforms” resonate with issues raised by several stories in 101 Detectives. When a CEO of a company has to defend his choice of painting hanging in the boardroom in “Mountain Landscape”, or a new car model is introduced to the public as part of a theatrical spectacle in “Industrial Theatre”, or a corporate storyteller aspires to rise above her level in “Exit Strategy”, creativity and corporate attitudes mingle. I asked Vladislavić whether he felt that in today’s world, where there is so much focus on productivity and financial gain, writers were becoming “corporate storytellers” like the character in “Exit Strategy”. His assessment of the situation is sober and practical: “Nearly all writers are involved in the marketing of their books and are caught up in the corporate machinery. Some clearly enjoy it more than others, and a few keep out of the fray and still manage to find readers.”

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SJ Naudé Contemplates His "Imploded Novel" The Alphabet of Birds (Plus: New UK Cover)

The Alphabet of BirdsAlfabet van die voëlsSJ Naudé’s collection of short stories The Alphabet of Birds has been published in the UK by independent publishing house And Other Stories.

The Alphabet of Birds was first published in Afrikaans in 2011, as Alfabet van die voëls, winning the 2012 Jan Rabie Rapport Prize and the 2011/2012 University of Johannesburg Debut Prize (Afrikaans).

Naudé himself translated the stories for the English edition, which The Guardian called “bursting with transcendence”.

The UK edition of book has been given a lovely new cover:

Carli Coetzee of Africa in Words chatted to Naudé about the process of translation, the “estranging effect” of writing in Afrikaans, and how his short story collection could be seen as “an imploded novel”:

CC: Is the collection an imploded novel? How would this collection be different if it were in fact marketed as “a novel”? Is it perhaps a novel but an imploded one?

SJN: I like the idea of an “imploded novel”: a collection of connected stories that refuse to become a novel. Stories that retreat from the novel form, rather than approach it. Texts that may be either the scaffolding for, or the ruins of, a novel, and that intend to be nothing more and nothing less. Why should we insist that something is a novel, even when it actually wants to be something less easily classifiable, simply because the demands of modern publishing require that something must parade as such? There is, of course, nothing new about the idea of a cycle of stories that are linked through themes, motifs or reappearing characters. Such stories may be mirrors or shadows of each other, may answer or oppose or undermine each other. The lengthy (sometimes novella-length) stories in my collection do, I hope, something slightly different. They are exceptionally diverse in their subject matter and setting, but are also closely linked in certain ways. They seem to both clash and engage intensely with each other at the same time, which is why the violence suggested by your notion of an “imploded novel” seems apt.

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