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This is the first literary prize I have won in South Africa.

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To be honest, I never expected to win the prize, which came with R35, in cash. My past experiences with certain South African literary prizes made me cynical.

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Being shortlisted comes with lots of benefits and literary opportunities. I tell everyone about my K Sello Duiker shortlisting in , the Sunday Times shortlist in , the MNet Literary Award shortlist in , and so forth, especially when I apply for residencies around the world. I also think that I get invited to literary festivals both in South Africa and abroad because of some of these shortlists. But let me share with you one of my most embarrassing stories about South African book prizes.


I was flown from Johannesburg by Media24 to attend the ceremony in Franschhoek. My publisher kept convincing me that this was my prize. Come the announcement, and we were told that there was no winner of the Herman Charles Bosman Prize that year. However, we were given honourable mentions for our efforts, and a consolation prize of R15, They split the R30, purse the amount then between the two of us. Now, imagine how I felt when I was shortlisted for the same prize eleven years later, and this time for a collection of short stories. The very same Media24 flew me to Cape Town, hired me a nice B-class car, and booked me into a posh hotel.

My mind was not on winning.

Come the announcement on 13 June, and I felt a shock when my name was read out. The Bosman was not my only bittersweet experience with South African literary prizes.

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Laments For The Living

Before the announcements began, one of the judges called me aside. He said to me that he was unhappy with the way the winner had been selected for my category. Apparently there had been serious lobbying in the boardroom for Ngobeni. Some judges felt that he had to win, to promote indigenous languages. He was upset that he was forced to go with the decision.

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On top of that, according to the judge, the winner was older than thirty-five years of age. Back then, the prize was for a young author below thirty-five.

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There are a number of excellent books that I think should not have been overlooked for prizes. Cooking a whole dish with a minuscule piece of pork is a common theme among the videos on Douyin.

'Wall of Laments'

In another video, a customer only buys a piece the size of his finger for 5 yuan 70 cents. In these videos, pork chops are as good as an apartment or any other item that conveys male value.

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A man who claimed to be a butcher wrapped two ribs around his waist and proclaimed that he finally had enough to pay the sky-high dowry necessary to get married. In one video, a user said after three months of pig-rearing, one would be able to afford to swap from a BMW to a Maserati. Move over watches, or fancy alcohol.