Alert! Today, Books LIVE unveils the final list of short stories for the Twenty in 20 project, a Twenty Years of Freedom initiative whose aim is to identify the best South African short fiction published in English during the past two decades of democracy.
The project comprises a collaboration between Books LIVE, Short Story Day Africa and the Department of Arts and Culture.
Earlier this month, the four Twenty in 20 judges met to debate the longlist of fifty stories – generated by over 200 submissions from Books LIVE readers – and whittle it down to the final list of the twenty works of fiction that will stand as South Africa’s best since 1994. Over three hours, there was robust conversation and a bit of horsetrading, but it never came to fisticuffs (although at one point Queensbury rules were invoked!).
The result is a list that will serve as a baseline for future writers to aspire to; that will provide pleasure to readers for generations to come; and that will serve as a longstanding reference for South African literary posterity.
The chair of the judges, Mandla Langa, said, “This collection of short stories reflects the diversity that enriches our young democracy. It’s a smorgasbord of ideas to cater for any appetite.”
The Minister for Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, sent the following statement on the Twenty in 20project to Books LIVE:
The Twenty in 20 project is one of our efforts to ensure that all sectors of our society are part of the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of our freedom and democracy.We are making this announcement shortly after the passing of one of the most prolific short story writers who ever lived — Nadine Gordimer, South Africa’s first Nobel laureate in Literature. When the news of her passing started spreading like wildfire, I was reminded of the famous saying that, “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.” Indeed, the sound of this giant’s fall reverberated across the globe.South Africa has a rich tradition of short story writing. Over the years, we produced some of the most outstanding short story writers, including the likes of Gordimer, Bloke Modisane, Casey Motsisi, Bessie Head, Njabulo Ndebele, and many other notable literary voices. These are the giants on whose shoulders aspiring writers should stand. As we celebrate the solid foundation that these pathfinders have laid, we simultaneously try to cultivate a new generation of writers to continue with this glorious tradition while confronting the new challenges of our society.The wide-ranging Twenty in 20 stories explore varied themes but have one thing in common: they are truly South African stories. Each one makes a unique contribution to our literary landscape.
Here then, without further ado, are the top twenty English short stories of South Africa’s democracy (note you can scroll within the document – also available here – to see the complete list details), organised alphabetically by the author’s surname:
- Not loading? Click here for the final Twenty in 20 list of short stories
- The Twenty in 20 long list of 50 stories
- Read how the Twenty in 20 project kicked off
Congratulations to the judges on creating a fine, final Twenty in 20 list.
As project convener, Your Correspondent would like to extend heartfelt thanks to Short Story Day Africa for its untiring work in creating the formal longlist, which has already caused an appropriate degree of literary commotion. I’d also like to thank Mandla Langa for his steady chairmanship during the awards process; and to doubly thank him, Karabo Kgoleng, Mtutuzeli Matshoba and Fiona Snyckers for paying such considered attention to such a diverse body of work.
Project process and timeline
Here is the remaining key date of the Twenty in 20 short story project:
September: The Twenty in 20 compilation of short stories is launched as a new compilation at National Book Week.
About the Twenty in 20 judges
Mandla Langa (Chair) was born in Durban and studied at the University of Fort Hare in Alice, Eastern Cape province. He left Fort Hare after playing an active role in student uprisings in 1972. He went into exile in 1976, and lived in countries such as Lesotho, Mozambique, Angola, Zambia, Hungary and the United Kingdom. In 1980 he won the Pan African DRUM Magazine story contest and in 1991 he was awarded the Arts Council of England bursary. His latest book, The Lost Colours of the Chameleon (2010) was shortlisted for the prestigious Sunday Times Fiction Prize and won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book – Africa Region. In 2007 he was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver.
Read more here.