LITTLE SUNS by Zakes Mda WINS THE SUNDAY TIMES FICTION PRIZE

LITTLE SUNS by acclaimed South African writer Zakes Mda has won the country’s Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize 2017. The prize seeks to showcase “writing of rare style and imagination, stories that chose the personal over the political, and themes that are fresh and provocative.” This is the second time that Zakes Mda has won this premier national prize, having won the inaugural award in 2001 for HEART OF REDNESS.

The Barry Ronge Fiction Prize was decided by a judging panel consisting of radio personality Africa Melane and Love Books founder Kate Rogan, chaired by journalist and author, Rehana Rossouw. The judges said that LITTLE SUNS was a “novel of rich, magical African imagery.” They applauded Mda for “bringing history to glorious life, in writing that is unique to him.” ‘Zakes Mda is on song with this book,” said one judge, “it brings people from our past gorgeously to life.’

You can read the full text of Zakes’ Mda’s powerful acceptance speech here about the important role of fiction in finding truth and fighting corruption: “The truth of fiction can give context and shed new insights on the stories unearthed by your investigative reporting. It gives them longevity and digestibility. Fiction is even more essential in this age when shamelessness and impunity among the ruling elite and ‘corruption fatigue’ in the populace are leading South Africa to perdition.”

LITTLE SUNS begins in 1903. A lame and frail Malangana – 'Little Suns' – searches for his beloved Mthwakazi after many lonely years spent in exile. Mthwakazi was the young woman he had fallen in love with twenty years earlier, before the assassination of Magistrate Hamilton Hope began a war that ripped the two of them apart.

Intertwined with Malangana's story is the account of Hope – a colonial magistrate who, in the late nineteenth century, was undermining the local kingdoms of the Eastern Cape in order to bring them under the control of the British. It was he who wanted to coerce Malangana’s king and his people, the amaMpondomise, into joining his battle – a scheme Malangana’s conscience could not allow. Based on real historical events – after these frontier wars were quelled, Zakes Mda’s own ancestors were exiled to Lesotho – Mda has drawn on published accounts and the oral stories of family members and local praise poets, woven together with his uniquely vigorous prose, historical insight and humour.

Umuzi published in Southern Africa, and Jacaranda Books will publish on their Global Classics list in 2018.

The Barry Ronge Fiction Prize is awarded as part of the Sunday Times Literary Awards and along with its twin prize, the Alan Paton Award for Non-Fiction, is one of South Africa’s most prestigious prizes. The winner goes home with R100,000. Other shortlisted books included Kopano Matlwa's PERIOD PAIN and Yewande Omotoso's THE WOMAN NEXT DOOR.

Zakes Mda is one of South Africa’s pre-eminent writers, and many of his era-defining plays and novels are hailed as classics of the literary canon. He divides his time between South Africa and the U.S., working as a professor of Creative Writing at Ohio University, director of the Southern African Multimedia AIDS Trust in Sophiatown, and dramaturge at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg. He is a patron of the Etisalat Prize.

Visit Zakes' website. 

Zakes on Twitter.


Praise for Zakes Mda:

‘The great South African novelist of his generation, a writer rich in both imagination and ironic political attitude.’ The Philadelphia Inquirer

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

‘It’s a different kind of South African literature, a South African magical realism …I can’t wait to read more’. Barbara Kingsolver on WAYS OF DYING

‘In novel after novel, Zakes Mda seems to have cultivated a mode of writing in which the realistic and the magical co-exist with unruffled ease.’ – Harry Garuba, Independent

'Zakes Mda is among the most acclaimed exponents of a new artistic freedom. His fiction has a beguiling lyricism and humour.' – Maya Jaggi, The Guardian

Zakes Mda’s LITTLE SUNS shortlisted for the Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize 2017

LITTLE SUNS by Zakes Mda, has been shortlisted for South Africa’s Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize 2017 which seeks to showcase “writing of rare style and imagination, stories that chose the personal over the political, and themes that are fresh and provocative.” The chair of the judges, Rehana Rossouw, describes the books as having ‘words that strike at the reader’s heart.’

‘Zakes Mda is on song with this book,” said one judge, “it brings people from our past gorgeously to life.’

It is 1903. A lame and frail Malangana – 'Little Suns' – searches for his beloved Mthwakazi after many lonely years spent in exile. Mthwakazi was the young woman he had fallen in love with twenty years earlier, before the assassination of Magistrate Hamilton Hope began a war that ripped the two of them apart.

Intertwined with Malangana's story is the account of Hope – a colonial magistrate who, in the late nineteenth century, was undermining the local kingdoms of the Eastern Cape in order to bring them under the control of the British. It was he who wanted to coerce Malangana’s king and his people, the amaMpondomise, into joining his battle – a scheme Malangana’s conscience could not allow. Based on real historical events – after these frontier wars were quelled, Zakes Mda’s own ancestors were exiled to Lesotho – Mda has drawn on published accounts and the oral stories of family members and local praise poets, woven together with his uniquely vigorous prose, historical insight and humour.

Umuzi published in Southern Africa, and Jacaranda Books will publish on their Global Classics list in 2018.


The Barry Ronge Fiction Prize is awarded as part of the Sunday Times Literary Awards and along with its twin prize, the Alan Paton Award for Non-Fiction, is one of South Africa’s most prestigious prizes. The winner goes home with R100,000. The full shortlist can be found here.

Zakes Mda is one of South Africa’s pre-eminent writers, and many of his era-defining plays and novels are hailed as classics of the literary canon. He divides his time between South Africa and the U.S., working as a professor of Creative Writing at Ohio University, director of the Southern African Multimedia AIDS Trust in Sophiatown, and dramaturge at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg. He is a patron of the Etisalat Prize.


Praise for Zakes Mda:

‘The great South African novelist of his generation, a writer rich in both imagination and ironic political attitude.’ The Philadelphia Inquirer

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

‘It’s a different kind of South African literature, a South African magical realism …I can’t wait to read more’. Barbara Kingsolver on WAYS OF DYING

‘In novel after novel, Zakes Mda seems to have cultivated a mode of writing in which the realistic and the magical co-exist with unruffled ease.’ – Harry Garuba, Independent

'Zakes Mda is among the most acclaimed exponents of a new artistic freedom. His fiction has a beguiling lyricism and humour.' – Maya Jaggi, The Guardian


Follow Zakes Mda on Twitter @ZakesMda

Zakes Mda's LITTLE SUNS TO SHINE ON JACARANDA'S GLOBAL CLASSICS LIST

Valerie Brandes and Laure Deprez of Jacaranda Books have acquired LITTLE SUNS, the latest novel by acclaimed South African writer Zakes Mda. A deal for UK and British Commonwealth rights, excluding Southern Africa, was struck with Mda’s agent, Isobel Dixon of Blake Friedmann. Originally published in South Africa by Random House’s Umuzi imprint, Jacaranda will publish LITTLE SUNS in their Global Classics list in 2018.

Author Zakes Mda. Photograph by Sal Idriss

Author Zakes Mda. Photograph by Sal Idriss

The novel opens in 1903 as rickety old wanderer Malangana – ‘Little Suns' – searches for his lost love Mthwakazi, a feisty healer who once tended his clan’s queen. As the trail of his romantic quest goes hot and cold, Malangana recalls how his king refused to be coerced into joining forces with the British and how his people’s uprising and the murder of Magistrate Hamilton Hope sparked vicious retribution from the colonisers. The Wars of Hope parted him from his beloved – after the decades of humiliation and exile, can he find her now?

LITTLE SUNS is based on real historical events – after these frontier wars were quelled, Zakes Mda’s own ancestors were exiled to Lesotho. In this vivid new novel Mda has drawn on published accounts and the oral stories of family members and local praise poets, woven together with his uniquely vigorous prose, historical insight and humour.

Laure Deprez said of the acquisition, ‘We are deeply honoured to be publishing this acclaimed author from South Africa. We feel confident that Zakes Mda will find significant success in the UK market.’

Zakes Mda said, ‘I'm greatly honored to be published by Jacaranda, joining a number of African writers whose work I respect immensely, and opening my work to a much broader readership.’

Agent Isobel Dixon praised Jacaranda’s ‘spirited dedication to diverse voices’ and said ‘it’s wonderful that Zakes has found a home there. His many fans have been clamouring for greater access to his work in the UK and I rejoice in the thought that LITTLE SUNS will find many more readers here now.’

Praise for Zakes Mda:

 ‘The great South African novelist of his generation, a writer rich in both imagination and ironic political attitude.’ The Philadelphia Inquirer

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

‘It’s a different kind of South African literature, a South African magical realism …I can’t wait to read more’. Barbara Kingsolver on WAYS OF DYING

‘In novel after novel, Zakes Mda seems to have cultivated a mode of writing in which the realistic and the magical co-exist with unruffled ease.’ – Harry Garuba, Independent

'Zakes Mda is among the most acclaimed exponents of a new artistic freedom. His fiction has a beguiling lyricism and humour.' – Maya Jaggi, The Guardian

Zakes Mda is one of South Africa’s pre-eminent writers, and many of his era-defining plays and novels are hailed as classics of the literary canon. He divides his time between South Africa and the U.S., working as a professor of Creative Writing at Ohio University, director of the Southern African Multimedia AIDS Trust in Sophiatown, and dramaturge at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg. He is a patron of the Etisalat Prize.

Follow Zakes Mda on Twitter @ZakesMda

RACHEL'S BLUE BY ZAKES MDA PUBLISHED BY SEAGULL PRESS

Seagull Press have published Zakes Mda’s RACHEL’S BLUE in a beautiful hardback edition, available now across North America, the UK, India and other English language markets outside South Africa (where Kwela’s edition is available). The novel was longlisted for the 2016 International DUBLIN Literary Award and in South Africa it won the University of Johannesburg Prize.

RACHEL’S BLUE is set in Athens, Ohio, and deals with the story of old high school friends Rachel Boucher and Jason de Klerk who reconnect­ and rekindle a relationship that quickly becomes passionate. Initially, all seems well. 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.

The novel 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.”

Zakes Mda has just completed a very busy and successful tour in South Africa to promote his latest novel LITTLE SUNS, published in South Africa by Penguin Random House’s Umuzi imprint.

Follow Zakes Mda on Twitter: @ZakesMda

About the author

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 is a recipient of South Africa’s Order of Ikhamanga. He is based in Athens, Ohio, where he spends his time writing and teaching.

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

Zakes Mda’s LITTLE SUNS on the rise in South Africa

Zakes Mda will be in South Africa in February to talk about his striking new novel LITTLE SUNS.  Among other events, he’ll take part in a discussion with Nakhane Touré as part of the Literary Crossroads series at the Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg on 9 February, sure to be a fascinating and lively evening.

 LITTLE SUNS begins in 1903. A lame and frail Malangana – 'Little Suns' – searches for his beloved Mthwakazi after many lonely years spent in Lesotho. Mthwakazi was the young woman he had fallen in love with twenty years earlier, before the assassination of Hamilton Hope ripped the two of them apart.

Intertwined with Malangana's story, is the account of Hamilton Hope – a colonial magistrate who, in the late nineteenth century, was undermining the local kingdoms of the Eastern Cape in order to bring them under the control of the British. It was he who wanted to coerce Malangana’s king and his people, the amaMpondomise, into joining his battle – a scheme Malangana’s conscience could not allow.

Zakes Mda's fine new novel LITTLE SUNS weaves the true events surrounding the death of Magistrate Hope into a memorable story of love and perseverance that transcends exile and strife. 

Penguin Random House’s Umuzi imprint won a heated auction for Southern African rights to LITTLE SUNS, and have produced a beautiful edition. You can read an extract from the novel here.

Zakes Mda’s previous novel 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 February.

Zakes Mda was born Zanemvula Kizito Gatyeni Mda in the Eastern Cape in 1948. He spent his early childhood in Soweto and finished his school education in Lesotho, where he joined his father in exile. His forebears were also exiled from Qumbu to Lesotho after the assassination of Hamilton Hope. Mda has studied and worked in South Africa, Lesotho, the United Kingdom and the United States, and is a prolific writer of plays, novels, poems, and articles for academic journals and newspapers. His creative work includes paintings, and theatre and film productions and several of his novels like WAYS OF DYING and THE HEART OF REDNESS are much-loved South African classics. His memoir SOMETIMES THERE IS A VOID was published by FSG in the US and Penguin in South Africa in 2011.

Zakes Mda is a recipient of South Africa’s Order of Ikhamanga and is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Ohio University’s Department of English.

Zakes also has a great following on social media – you can join his +77,000 followers here.