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M-NET LITERARY AWARDS (article first published : 2008-05-18)

The South African novel is alive and well. South Africa’s storytellers have been wielding their pens with vigour this year, with more entries than ever before pouring in for one of the country’s most sought-after literature gongs, the M-Net Literary Awards.

The M-Net Literary Awards, now in their 17th year, celebrate South African creative writing and are unique in the sense that this is the only book award that rewards the publication of original works in all of South Africa’s indigenous languages. Novelists can enter in English, Afrikaans, Nguni, Sotho, Tshivenda and Xitsonga.

While 87 entries were received last year, this year’s record haul of 130 books had the judges revisiting the books from different vantage points when it came to compiling the prestigious shortlist. Afrikaans entries more than doubled from 13 to 32, English entries jumped from 40 to 56, and entries for the African languages increased from 34 to 42.

According to Hettie Scholtz, M-Net Literary Awards chairperson, it is pleasing to see that not only the quantity but also the quality of submissions have been so high: “Innovative novels from fresh literary voices have taken a well-deserved place alongside books from the big guns. This is so encouraging for the future of South African literature,” she says.

In compiling the shortlist, the judges considered entries on the basis of their literary merit, originality, narrative structure and relevance.

According to Mandla Langa, patron of the M-Net Literary Awards, a country’s literature is a great barometer of where a culture’s headspace is at: “South Africa is a country in the middle of an inspiring transition. Literature is one of the major vehicles that will help the country reach its destination. This contribution from a vast array of languages and communities is a manifestation of the thrust towards nationhood."

This year, the submissions examined various social issues which are close to the hearts of South Africans in an honest and straightforward way – among the recurring themes were depression, domestic violence, addictions, AIDS, the search for personal and political identity, women and child abuse, materialism, corruption, American cultural imperialism and the painful effects of war and violence.

The winners of the M-Net Literary Awards will be announced on June 14 at a gala event in Cape Town. Book lovers are also invited to join the winners in a celebration of South African writing at the International Book Fair. This will take place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre where some of the winners, judges and publishers of the M-Net Literary Awards will be at the Via Afrika stand between 10h00 and 11h00.




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