Marlene Van Niekerk's compelling story of love and family loyalty in apartheid South Africa, AGAAT (UK title:THE WAY OF THE WOMEN) has been shortlisted for the $50,000 St Francis College Literary Prize, with the winner to be announced on 17 September at the opening night gala for the 2011 Brooklyn Book Festival
The six writers, competing for one of the richest awards in North America, are a diverse mix of authors, coming from across the United States and around the world. The other authors are: Kevin Brockmeier, The Illumination (Pantheon); Joshua Cohen, Witz (Dalkey Archive Press); Jonathan Dee, The Privileges (Random House); Yiyun Li, Gold Boy Emerald Girl (Random House); and Brad Watson, Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives (W. W. Norton & Company). The first St. Francis College Literary Award was given in 2009 to Aleksandar Hemon for his book, Love and Obstacles (Riverhead Books).
The jury for the award is composed of three award winning writers; Francine Prose (A Changed Man, Blue Angel, My New American Life), Rick Moody (The Four Fingers of Death, Garden State, The Ice Storm) and Darcey Steinke (Easter Everywhere, Milk: A Novel, Suicide Blonde).
AGAAT has in the past year been shortlisted for Three Percent's Best Translated Book Award and the Independent Booksellers Choice Award.
Marlene van Niekerk has received wide recognition for AGAAT since it was first published in South Africa by Tafelberg in Afrikaans in 2004, and in English by Tafelberg with Jonathan Ball in 2006, translated by prize-winning translator and novelist Michiel Heyns. AGAAT was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2008 and won the South African Sunday Times Literary Award in 2005, and Heyns was awarded Outstanding Translation Award in 2009 as well as the Sol Plaatje Award for Translation in 2008. It was listed as a Best Book in 2010 by both Publisher's Weekly, and Booklist. AGAAT was brought out in the UK by Little Brown in 2007 under the title THE WAY OF THE WOMEN and Tin House published AGAAT under its original title in 2010. Rights have been sold to Gallimard in France, Neri Pozza in Italy, Querido in Holland, and Svante Weyler in Sweden. Film rights are sold to Mutz-Media.
Praise for AGAAT:
'I was immediately mesmerized by Ms. van Niekerk's novel. Its beauty matches its depth and her achievement is as brilliant as it is haunting.' -- Toni Morrison
'Unquestionably the most important novel since Coetzee's DISGRACE…narrative creation of the highest order.' -- Patrick Denman Flanery, Times Literary Supplement
'Van Niekerk follows the widely lauded TRIOMF with a dark, innovative epic that trudges through the depths of a South African farmwife's soul...Clearly an allegory for race relations in South Africa, the novel succeeds on numerous other grounds: a rich evocation of family dynamics; a chilling portrait of bodily and mental decay; and a successful experiment in combining diaries, the second-person, and stream of consciousness. Van Niekerk marshals it all to evoke the resigned mind of a dying woman who realizes, too late, the horrible mistakes that have made her life a waste.' -- Publishers Weekly starred review
'This novel stuns with its powerful sense of the rigors of farm life, desolation of a failing marriage, and comfort of a long and complex relationship.' -- Vanessa Bush, Booklist starred review