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SUNDAY TIMES AWARDS (article first published : 2006-07-15)

In a nod to both the new and the brave in contemporary English South African writing, two books confronting the Aids scourge jointly won this year's Alan Paton Non-Fiction Award while a relative newcomer scooped the R50,000 Fiction Prize with only his second published novel.

The two books, AidSafari by Adam Levin and Witness to Aids by judge Edwin Cameron, are the joint winners of the Alan Paton Award. After lengthy deliberation the judging panel concluded that both books were equally deserving of the prize for their courage and searing honesty, reflected in highly personal, albeit different accounts of confronting and coming to terms with Aids.

“The judges believed strongly that both Levin and Cameron displayed exceptional integrity and bravery in laying bare the intimate details of their experience, their struggle and the resolution of their personal crises, as public testimony," said Sunday Times Literary Awards convenor, Michele Magwood. “As such both works were of immense value at a time when the de-stigmatisation of AIDS continues to be one of the most critical defences in the fight against this disease in South Africa and throughout Africa. The writing draws the reader in, illuminating the plight of those who are forced to confront living with this disease, with far fewer resources.”

The Fiction Prize winner, Coldsleep Lullaby by Cape Town advocate and police reservist Andrew Brown, a former liberation activist, provided another interesting twist to this year's awards. Up against works by literary titans such as Nobel Laureate JM Coetzee's Slow Man and Andre P Brink's Praying Mantis, the fiction judges were united in their verdict that Coldsleep Lullaby, a murder mystery set in Stellenbosch, is "a finely crafted novel with authentic characters that play on certain South African stereotypes, only to dispel them. The writing is compelling, the themes new and contemporary and the story adds a layer of understanding onto the Cape - and by that, onto South Africa - that hasn't been experienced before. This is refreshing.

“That the winner of the prestigious Fiction Prize represents the new guard of English writers underscores the upsurge in high calibre writing that has been a feature of this year's submissions,“ she continues. “Three of this year's short-listed fiction writers are new voices with two of the titles, Garden of the Plagues by Russell Brownlee and The Good Cemetery Guide by Consuelo Roland, being debut novels. We have seen new points of view, new tales, new realities, fresh perspectives and our writers embracing a sense of South Africa here and now. All this bodes extremely well for the future of English writing in this country."

The Sunday Times Fiction Prize and the Alan Paton Non-Fiction Award, are respectively the country's most financially lucrative English language literary awards at R50,000 each and are awarded annually to recognise exceptional writing in English by South Africans.

This year's shortlists for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize were Coldsleep Lullaby by Andrew Brown (Zebra Press - 2006 Winner); Garden of the Plagues by Russel Brownlee (Human & Rousseau); Praying Mantis by Andre Brink (Secker & Warburg); Slow Man by JM Coetzee (Secker & Warburg), and The Good Cemetery Guide by Consuelo Roland (Double Storey).

The shortlists for the Alan Paton Non-Fiction Award are AidSafari/i> by Adam Levin (Zebra Press - 2006 Joint Winner); Witness to AIDS by Edwin Cameron (Tafelberg - 2006 Joint Winner); No Cold Kitchen: A Biography of Nadine Gordimer by Ronald Suresh Roberts (STE Publishers); Spring Will Come by William N Zulu (University of KwaZulu-Natal Press); The Dirty Work of Democracy by Antony Altbeker (Jonathan Ball Publishers).




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