Perfect Hlongwane has published a new novel. The book is titled Sanity Prevail and was published by Blackbird Books.
The novel follows an unnamed narrator in psychiatric hospital. Throughout his time there, he encounters a variety of other patients who share their stories with him and open up about their experiences with mental health and stigma in South Africa.
The inspiration for the story came from Hlongwane encounters with people who have been badly treated by mental health institutions. In some ways, this work is a response to the tragic events in Guateng, South Africa where 143 psychiatric patients died from neglect.
Sanity Prevail amplifies the voices of those who have come under institutional harm. As such, it exposes the discrimination, stigma, and mistreatment of individuals suffering from mental health issues. The novel exposes the ways in which the “mentally unwell” are often excluded, rendered voiceless, and invisible.
At the heart of the novel is the act of storytelling itself. It shows that any situation can be a context for sharing stories and by so doing, transforming the disheartening experiences of life in the Psychiatric ward into a space for collective experience. For a story that explores difficult issues, Sanity Prevail remains hopeful by centering the power that comes from honoring the lives of others in stories.
Hlongwane lives and works in South Africa. His work has been published in the Johannesburg Review of Books, Culture Review Magazine, City Press and others. His debut novel, Jozi, was shortlisted for the 2014 University of Johannesburg Writing in English Prize.
If you enjoy fiction that engages contemporary issues head on, you may enjoy this new book. Some of the stories told by the patients are unsettling and dark, but all emphasize the central themes around mental health, pain, and injustices in the world. Sanity Prevails not only addresses mental illnesses within an individual or group of individuals, but alludes to the varying illnesses plaguing our world today.
Read the publishers description below.
“The unnamed protagonist of Perfect Hlongwane’s second novel, Sanity Prevail, is admitted to the Psychiatric Ward of a government hospital. There, he meets an assortment of characters, his fellow patients, and narrates their hilarious, horrific and ultimately tragic stories as relayed to him by themselves. His conflicted feelings about being in the treatment facility, and keen curiosity with regard to the admission stories of his fellow patients, serve as the unfolding plot for his stay in the Psychiatric Ward. The protagonist agonises about what it means, to be adjudged mentally unwell, by a society whose very foundations seem to him unjust and unhealthy to the point of being bizarre. A story that seeks to explore what sets individual stories apart, how they converge and collide and ultimately, the dilemma of being alive in the world today, such as it is. A riveting tale about the struggle of a mental patient to wrestle hope from the deepest pit of despair.”
Buy Sanity Prevail: Blackbird Books
Listen to a Q&A with the author about the novel.