Zakes Mda’s RACHEL’S BLUE has been longlisted for the 2016 International DUBLIN Literary Award, alongside fellow Blake Friedmann author Joseph O’Connor, and other authors like David Grossman, Haruki Murakami, Rabih Allamedine, Neel Mukherjee, Michael Cunningham, Ali Smith and Helen Oyeyemi. Books are nominated for the Award by invited public libraries in cities throughout the world - making the Award unique in its coverage of international fiction. Titles are nominated on the basis of 'high literary merit' as determined by the nominating library.

Mda’s book was selected by the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Library and Information Services, South Africa and explores the suffocating nature of a small-town community, prejudice, and the complicated relationship that develops when the boundaries of love and friendship become confused between two high-school friends reunited in adulthood.  Novelist Zakes Mda has made a name for himself as a key chronicler of the new, post-apartheid South Africa, casting a satirical eye on its claims of political unity, its rising black middle class, and other aspects of its complicated, multiracial society.

In this novel, however, he turns his lens elsewhere: to a college town in Ohio. Here he finds human relations and the battle between the community and the individual no less compelling, or ridiculous. In Athens, Ohio, old high school friends Rachel Boucher and Jason de Klerk reconnect­ and rekindle a relationship that quickly becomes passionate. Initially, all seems well. Not only the couple, but their friends and family, are happy at this unexpected conjunction. But then Rachel meets someone else. Jason’s anger boils over into violence—violence that turns the community on its head, pitting friends and neighbours against one another. And all this happens before Rachel realizes she’s pregnant.

RACHEL’S BLUE was written as a response to the legal situation that persists in many US states today – that the father of a child conceived from rape can claim the same paternity rights as any father. Although RACHEL’S BLUE is set in Athens County, Ohio, many of the issues raised in the book are familiar to South Africa and reviewer Eckard Smuts wrote on SlipNet that “one of the novel’s strongest accomplishments is the ease with which Mda has transplanted his sensitivity to such issues – and to their human impact – from the more familiar South African setting of his earlier work to the apparently fertile grounds of the American Midwest.”

RACHEL’S BLUE won the University of Johannesburg Prize 2014, and you can learn more about that and read the first chapter of the novel here.  It is published in South Africa by Kwela, and Seagull Press will bring out an edition for the UK and the US in early 2016.

Zakes Mda is the author of the much loved classics of South African literature WAYS OF DYING and THE HEART OF REDNESS, among many others. He was born in the Eastern Cape, but spent his early childhood in Soweto, finishing his school education in Lesotho. He is a prolific writer of novels, plays, poems and articles for academic journals and newspapers, and his writing has been translated into twenty languages. His creative work also includes painting, and theatre and film productions. Mda, whose forebears were exiled from Qumbu to Lesotho after the assassination of Hamilton Hope, is a recipient of South Africa’s Order of Ikhamanga. He is based in Athens, Ohio, where he spends his time writing and teaching.

Penguin Random South Africa’s Umuzi imprint will publish his new novel LITTLE SUNS next month.

Praise for Zakes Mda

‘Mda writes from the inside with a rare combination of passion and truth that will connect with readers everywhere.’ Booklist

‘A voice for which one should feel not only affection but admiration.’ New York Times

‘Zakes Mda is among the most acclaimed exponents of a new artistic freedom. His fiction has a beguiling lyricism and humour.’ The Guardian


THE THRILL OF IT ALL by Joseph O’Connor has been longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2015. The longlist has just been announced, and O’Connor finds himself in good company alongside Martin Amis, Paulo Coelho, Michael Cunningham, David Grossman and other internationally acclaimed authors.

Books are nominated for the Award by invited public libraries in cities throughout the world - making the Award unique in its coverage of international fiction. Each year a panel of distinguished international judges is then put in place under a non-voting chair to consider each book from the longlist and narrow it down to a shortlist of up to 10 titles, coming up with the final winner by June.

THE THRILL OF IT ALL was nominated by Tampere City Library, in Finland. The librarian explained his choice: ‘To succeed in writing a novel about the music business appears to be almost as hard – if not even harder – than actually making it in the said business. However, O’Connor pulls it off admirably, his take on the subject manages to capture and convey “the thrill of it all” well and truly. The fragile interpersonal relationship of the protagonists has been portrayed in a particularly convincing manner. Ships in the night, indeed…’

THE THRILL OF IT ALL is O’Connor’s first contemporary novel after the critically-acclaimed million-copy selling STAR OF THE SEA, and the two historical novels that followed it. It has been chosen by Colm Toibin as one of his Best Books of2014 in The Observer, and as Irish Times’ Book of the Week in August 2015.

At college in 1980s Luton, Robbie Goulding, an Irish-born teenager, meets the elusive Fran Mulvey, an orphaned Vietnamese refugee. Together they form a band. Joined by cellist Sarah-Thérèse Sherlock and her twin brother Seán on drums, The Ships in the Night set out to chase fame. But the story of this makeshift family is haunted by ghosts from the past.

Spanning 25 years, THE THRILL OF IT ALL rewinds and fast-forwards through an evocative soundtrack of struggle and laughter, infused with blues, ska, classic showtunes, New Wave and punk. Using interviews, lyrics, memoirs and diaries, the tale stretches from suburban England to Manhattan’s East Village, from Thatcher-era London to the Hollywood Bowl, from the meadows of the Glastonbury Festival to a wintry Long Island, culminating in a Dublin evening in July 2012, a night that changes everything.

A story of loyalties, friendship, the call of the muse, and the beguiling shimmer of teenage dreams, this is a warm-hearted, funny and deeply moving novel for anyone that’s ever loved a song.

Joseph O’Connor has written film and television scripts, journalism, short stories, biography and travel literature. In summer 2009 he took up the prestigious Harman Visiting Professorship in Creative Writing at Baruch College, City University of New York, following in the footsteps of Edward Albee, Paul Auster, Anita Desai and Yeats (who features in GHOST LIGHT). In 2014 he became theinaugural Frank McCourt Chair in Creative Writing at the University of Limerick, chosen above many other distinguished writers considered for the post.