South African authors C.A .Davids and Bulelwa Mabasa are the winners of the 2023 Sunday Times Literary Awards. While Davids won the Fiction award for her novel How to Be a Revolutionary, Mabasa won the Nonfiction Award for her memoir My Land Obsession: A Memoir.
The Sunday Times Literary Awards are presented in partnership with Exclusive Books, with the aim of recognizing the best of South African fiction and nonfiction from the previous year. Both winners receive R100,000 each.
This judges for the Fiction Prize were Ekow Duker (chair), Kevin Ritchie, and Nomboniso Gasa. They described Davids’ How to be a Revolutionary as “masterful. A fascinating book made up of three different stories, to create a whole that is increasingly relevant in a multi-polar world where people’s pasts have to be grappled with to be made sense of”.
Davids’ novel was featured on our 100 Notable African Books of 2022. Cape Town resident Beth moves to Shanghai for a diplomatic posting, where she meets her neighbor Zhao with whom she shares a love of Langston Hughes. But one day Zhao vanishes, and a typewritten manuscript appears at her doorstep instead. How to Be a Revolutionary connects contemporary Shanghai, late Apartheid-era South Africa, and China during the Great Leap Forward and the Tiananmen uprising.
The judges for the Nonfiction Award were Duma Gqubule (chair), Judy Dlamini and Julian Rademeyer, and they described My Land Obsession as “an engaging memoir. It’s inspirational, factual and relevant with many angles that define our past going back generations”.
Published by Picador Africa, Mabasa’s memoir documents the writer-lawyer’s life, from the time she was born in Meadowlands, Soweto, at the height of apartheid. She shares her Christian upbringing, framed by the lived experiences of her grandparents, who endured land dispossession in the form of the Group Areas Act and the migrant labour system. She also goes on to practice law specifically in the area of land reform.
Congrats to Davids and Mabasa!