Novelist Nuruddin Farah (69) won this year’s South African Literary Awards’ (SALA) Lifetime Achievement Award category. The award presentation was held at the National Library of South Africa, Tshwane, where eleven other winners received their accolades.

SALA is a project of the wRite associates, launched in 2005, in partnership with the national Department of Arts and Culture (DAC), the main aim of which is to pay tribute to South African writers who have distinguished themselves as groundbreaking producers and creators of literature, across all the official languages. Other SALA partners are the National Arts Council, the SABC and SAFM.

Farah is the author of eleven other novels which have been translated into more than twenty languages and have won numerous awards, amongst them Kurt Tucholsky Prize, Neustadt International Prize for Literature and others.

“I thank the South African Literary Awards Adjudication Panel for having bestowed on me the South African Lifetime Literary Achievement Award for my humble output – an honour I accept with utmost pleasure, the like of which I’ve never received, indeed, my first award from the African continent”, Farah said.

About his latest novel, Hiding In Plain Sight, he has been praised by Newsweek, the Washington Post and The New York Times Book Review, thus “…it’s easy to see why Nuruddin Farah’s name keeps coming up as a likely recipient of a Nobel Prize in Literature…(Farah’s) strange and compelling books don’t just keep you awake. They haunt you…”, …”in the same sacred strata…as Chinua Achebe and Nobel laureates Nadine Gordimer and Wole Soyinka…Farah has a literary vision boht broad and deep, the vision of an exile and a patriot…”

Farah’s subjects revolve around colonialism, feminism and nationalism with notable works including From a Crooked Rib, Maps, Gifts, Secrets etc.

An Amazon review of his novel From a Crooked Rib, notes, “…written with complete conviction from a woman’s point of view, Nuruddin Farah’s spare, shocking first novel savagely attacks the traditional values of his people yet is also a haunting celebration of the unbroken human spirit”

While Farah lives in Cape Town and New York, where he is Distinguished Professor of Literature at Bard College, his triumph is not lost in the trauma engulfing Baidoa where he was born 69 years ago.

Njabulo Simakahle Ndebele, academic, author and former Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Cape Town and current Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, also received the SALA Lifetime Achievement Literary Award.

Other stars that shone on the glittering night were gender activist and poet Makhosazana Xaba, who together with Refilwe Malatjie shared the Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award. This award is inspired by the late Nobel Laureate and was granted for their respective short story collections, Love Interrupted and Running & Other Stories. In granting the award the judges felt that “Malatji and Xaba are two authors who seem to have made a deliberate decision to write stories that speak of women struggles in a patriarchal society. Their narratives expose the world of womankind without marginalising society in their endeavours.”

Creative Non-Fiction Award went to Sihle Khumalo for his inspirational travelogue across Francophone Africa, titled Almost Sleeping My Way to Timbuktu. Its strong point was a feeling by the judges that its treatment of Africa’s governance challenges post- liberation was a lesson necessary for Africa as it seeks its own renaissance. “Khumalo’s exploration hits the bull’s eye because his decision to tour West Africa without a crash course in French meant he was above being influenced by the culture of the place. His was a mirror approach; telling it like it is without fear of shaming the native.”

Claire Robertson won the First-time Published Author Award for her 278 pages hard cover novel, The Spiral House. “As you know, a head is a deal heavier than it looks. That is one reason you do not want to drop it anywhere near your feet”. Any novel with such as blurb is mesmerizing without apologizing.

Nhlanhla Maake scooped the Literary Translators’ Award, a feat that is becoming a habit for this prolific author and intellectual. Also getting awards were Jamala Safari (The Great Agony and Pure Laughter of the Gods) and Thandi Sliepen (The Turtle Dove Told Me). Both won the k.Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award and Poetry Award, respectively.

The SALA Chairperson’s Award went to Zakes Mda who, on receiving this award, emotionally lauded the late Mbulelo Mzamane for the latter’s contribution to education, the arts and culture, “a man of great compassion who served humanity with humility and without making any noise about his generosity…”

“I am more grateful for Mbulelo than I would myself, because, if anyone deserves to be honoured, it is him”, said Mda

Mzamane was bestowed the SALA Posthumous Literary Award.

Mda also congratulated fellow writer and SALA winner, Njabulo Ndebele, saying “Mbulelo, Njabulo and I were known as The Class of 48, after the year we were born…we grew from boys to men, in South Africa, Lesotho and United Kingdom… and I’m the happiest that he (Ndebele) has been honoured in this special way”.

“As literary adjudicators we are always impressed by South African authors who take part in this noble exercise to capture our present through various literary genres; short stories, fiction, non-fiction, poetry and other writings that qualify as literature of the highest quality. Such is the hallmark of every nation with dreams of a posterity draped in glory for having left big marks on its nation’s literary landscape. French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte said, ‘we must never walk this world without leaving traces that remind posterity of us’, said the South African Literary Awards Adjudication Panel

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