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The Johannesburg Review of Books, a new journal of literary writing, makes its debut today, May 1. The publication, whose informal slogan is “your desultory literary companion from South Africa,” is published by Ben Williams and edited by Jennifer Malec.

Its editorial personnel comprises: contributing editors Bongani Madondo, Caine Prize winner Henrietta Rose-Innes, Short Story Day Africa Prize winner Efemia Chela; photo editor Victor Dlamini, poetry editor Rustum Kozain, city editor Niq Mhlongo, and academic editor Simon van Schalkwyk.

Here is the JRB’s mission statement.

Our aim is to fill a conspicuous gap in world letters: namely, the lack of an authoritative review from Africa covering significant books from across the globe. While African literature itself is bursting at the seams, and very well-supported by digital literati (not to mention well-explored by the global academy), it’s still the case that critical voices from Africa are not as well-heard, when it comes to considering new works of fiction and non-fiction—whether these be from Cape Town, Johannesburg, Lagos, Mumbai, Toronto, Dublin or other publishing hubs—as voices from city-arbiters of literary taste like Sydney, Los Angeles, New York, and London. The JRB hopes to change that.

We also hope provide a new space for writers from South Africa, Africa and beyond to ruminate on culture, politics, history and the arts, publishing pieces that stand up both to intellectual scrutiny and to the great wash of information that nowadays causes all but the most memorable writing to fade. To that end, we will publish reviews, essays, poetry, short fiction and photographs in a single issue each month (subscribe here), plus a regular sampling of African literary life on our blog.

Our informal slogan at The JRB is—‘your desultory literary companion from South Africa’. ‘Desultory’ is meant here in its classic sense of leaping from one thing to another, in this case the various channels that modern publications are required to maintain, to ensure richness, reach and relevance over the long term. To the best of our ability, we will leap among these channels like a latter-day literary desultor, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Medium, SoundCloud, YouTube and The Reading List.

Beyond that, it’s no exaggeration to say that we also want to fight crime—by which we mean the horrors attending the world’s sharp turn to extremism, populism and storming nationalism. Book reviewing is one means of keeping the basic tenets of humanism alive: books entail, by their very nature, a meeting of minds—if not always perfect agreement between these minds—and the more that meet across the hardening boundaries of the current age, by whatever means, including the perusal of a literary review, the more cause for hope.

Among the review’s three patrons is Achmat Dangor, activist and author of the Booker- and IMPAC Dublin-shortlisted Bitter Fruit and the Herman Charles Bosman-winning Kafka’s Curse. There is also Makhosazana Xaba, editor of the Lambda Literary Award-winning anthology Queer Africa: New and Collected Fiction and author of the SALA Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award-winning collection Running & Other Stories. Their third patron is the much-honoured Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at Wits University, Ivan Vladislavić, who has received Yale University’s Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction, the Sunday Times Fiction Prize, the Alan Paton Award, the University of Johannesburg Prize, the English Academy’s Thomas Pringle Award, the Olive Schreiner Prize, the CNA Literary Award, and the Kraszna-Krausz Award for best photography book.

Their editorial advisory panel features a host of award-winning names: The Guardian Best First Book Award winner, Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award shortlistee and Brittle Paper Literary Person of 2016, Petina Gappah; the Miles Morland Scholar and Baileys Prize-longlisted Yewande Omotoso; The Shining Girls author Lauren Beukes; the Commonwealth Prize-winning Happiness Is a Four Letter Word author Nozizwe Cynthia Jele; literary blogger James Murua; CA Davids; Richard de Nooy; Kgauhelo Dube; Rabih Alameddine; Patrick Flanery; Philip Gourevitch; Karabo Kgoleng; Antjie Krog; Angela Makholwa; Wamuwi Mbao; Nthikeng Mohlele; Margie Orford; Richard Poplak; Bontle Senne; Elinor Sisulu; and Tymon Smith.

We wish the JRB success and longevity.

Find out more in The Johannesburg Review of Books.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, an academic, literary journalist, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review, Transition, and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award for which he was shortlisted. His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. He attended the 2018 Miles Morland Foundation Creative Writing Workshop. He is the curator of the ART NAIJA SERIES, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, ENTER NAIJA: THE BOOK OF PLACES (October, 2016), focuses on cities in Nigeria. The second, WORK NAIJA: THE BOOK OF VOCATIONS (June, 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. He studied History and Literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He has completed a collection of short stories, YOU SING OF A LONGING, and is working on a novel. He is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. When bored, the boy just Googles Rihanna.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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