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Nozizwe Cynthia Jele. Image from The Reading List.

Sunday Times newspaper has announced the longlists for the Alan Paton Award and the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize.

Founded in 2000, the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize, named after the arts commentator Barry Ronge, honours novels of “rare imagination and style, a tale so compelling as to become an enduring landmark of contemporary fiction.”


Babatunde’s Heroic Journey: from Nigeria to Ukraine via Russia
Nape à Motana (Sulis International Press)

Red Dog
Willem Anker (Kwela Books)

NR Brodie (Pan Macmillan)

A Spy in Time 
Imraan Coovadia (Umuzi)

Beyers de Vos (Penguin Random House)

The Enumerations 
Maire Fisher (Umuzi)

Maya Fowler (Umuzi)

All Things Bright and Broken
Carol Gibbs (Jacana Media)

The List
Barry Gilder (Jacana Media)

A Tree for the Birds 
Vernon Head (Jacana Media)

The White Room
Craig Higginson (Picador Africa)

An Unquiet Place 
Clare Houston (Penguin Random House)

The Boy Who Could Keep a Swan in His Head
John Hunt (Umuzi)

The Ones with Purpose
Nozizwe Cynthia Jele (Kwela Books)

The Hum of the Sun
Kirsten Miller (Kwela Books)

Called to Song
Kharnita Mohamed (Kwela Books)

Michael K
Nthikeng Mohlele (Picador Africa)

The Theory of Flight
Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu (Penguin Random House)

The Broken River Tent
Mphuthumi Ntabeni (Blackbird Books)

The Gold-Diggers
Sue Nyathi (Pan Macmillan)

Too Many Tsunamis
Vincent Pienaar (Penguin Random House)

Under Glass
Claire Robertson (Umuzi)

Parts Unknown 
Zirk van den Berg (Kwela Books)

Theo & Flora
Mark Winkler (Umuzi)

The Season of Glass
Rahla Xenopoulos (Umuzi)

“It has been a joy reading most of the books on the Barry Ronge Prize longlist, given the excellence and variety of this year’s crop,” commented the judges: Ken Barris, Nancy Richards, and Wamuwi Mbao. “Children at risk and under fire were beautifully explored in several of the novels, with well-informed treatments of autism, obsessive compulsive disorder, and homelessness.

“There were narratives of failed and successful love, and a couple of fascinating magical realist novels. As always, there were journeys into the Apartheid past, with some speaking more directly into the present than others. Two of the novels opened windows into the harsh lives of ordinary people that middle-class citizens tune out so well. One relates the experiences of a family after the AIDS-induced death of a loved one. The other is about a group of undocumented immigrants from Zimbabwe, coming to Johannesburg in search of a better life, focusing on their vulnerability and total absence of protection.

“There was a fair sprinkling of translated works, and genre fiction was also well represented (one spy, two crimes, and one science-fiction and fantasy apiece).

“The judges noted a disappointing cross-section of badly edited work, resulting in repetitive, sometimes disorganised narrative, and overburdened dialogue. We understand that publishers face resource constraints, but felt that this is something requiring more attention. That said, the best of these novels were glorious. It’s in the nature of judgement to exclude as much as select, so difficult choices will have to be made in the end!”


Ken Barris—Chair

Barris is a writer, editor, and photographer, and former academic. His fiction has been translated into German, Danish and Turkish, and he has won various literary awards for novels, short stories and poetry. These include the Ingrid Jonker Prize, M-Net Book Prize, Thomas Pringle Award, the University of Johannesburg and the Herman Charles Bosman Prize.

Nancy Richards

Richards is an independent journalist with many years of experience in radio and print. She is the founder of NPO: Woman Zone and the Women’s Library (initiatives to encourage women of different backgrounds, cultures and communities to share their stories with one another). She’s the author of Beautiful Homes and co-author of Woman Today: 50 Years of South African Women on Radio and Being a Woman in Cape Town. Richards is a speaker, media trainer and proud to be a board member of Soil for Life, a non-profit that helps people learn how to grow healthy, organic food.

Wamuwi Mbao

Mbao is a writer and essayist. He reviews fiction for The Johannesburg Review of Books and teaches South African literature at Stellenbosch University. His short story, “The Bath,” was listed as one of the 20 best stories of SA’s democracy.

Brittle Paper congratulates the 25 longlisted authors. 

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, journalist, & Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. The recipient of the inaugural The Future Awards Prize for Literature in 2019, he is a judge for The Gerald Kraak Prize and was a judge for The Morland Writing Scholarship in 2019. He is Nonfiction Editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is Curator at The Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His work in queer equality advocacy in literature has been profiled in Literary Hub. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He has an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies/English & Literary Studies, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English in a private Nigerian university. Find him at, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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