Sunday Times literary winners announced

2012-06-22 12:22
Cape Town - Struggle veteran Hugh Lewin and former Stellenbosch professor Michiel Heyns have taken top honours at the 2012 Sunday Times Literary Awards.

Lewin took the 24th Alan Paton prize for non-fiction while Heyns scooped a second win in the fiction category. The awards were announced on Thursday at a ceremony in Johannesburg.

Each winner walked away with R75 000.

Lewin won for his memoir, Stones Against The Mirror (published by Umuzi), which the judges described as "a beautifully written and intensely personal story of friendship, betrayal and struggle".

'Speaks in moving ways'

The book tells the story of Lewin's journey to meet his former colleague and friend, Adrian Leftwich, who had betrayed him to the security police in 1964 resulting in a lengthy jail sentence for sabotage.

The chair of the Alan Paton judging panel, Prishani Naidoo, said this was "not a story of reconciliation, it speaks in very moving ways to the truth of the character of experiences of friendship, politics and life in apartheid South Africa".

Lewin was ecstatic about his achievement and told the organisers:

"I am thrilled to have won the 24th Alan Paton Award and I have to express my gratitude to Ray Hartley and his team at the Sunday Times who help to nurture the literature in South Africa – and that is vital!"

Lewin previously won the 2003 Olive Schreiner Prize for his book Bandiet Out of Jail.

A former journalist, he went into exile after completing his jail sentence, returning to South Africa in 1992.
Michiel Heyns won the Sunday Times Fiction Prize with Lost Ground (published by Jonathan Ball), a crime story set in the Karoo. Heyns was a previous joint winner in 2007 for his translation of Marlene van Niekerk's Agaat.

'Clever, fast and funny'

Lost Ground was described by the judging panel chair, Professor Sarah Nuttall, as "clever, fast and funny", and she praised its "sheer range of characters" with voices that are "authentic and profound as they unravel the deep threads of what is holding them together".

Heyns said of the award: "I was privileged to be on an extremely strong shortlist this year and wasn't at all optimistic about winning the 2012 Fiction Prize, but what a wonderful surprise it was when the announcement was made. I must say that I am pleased and honoured to have been in such good shortlist company."

68-year-old Heyns retired as a professor of English at Stellenbosch University in 2003 to take up full-time writing and has produced five novels – including the recently published Invisible Furies – as well as the award-winning translation of Agaat.

These are the books that were shortlisted for the various categories:

Fiction Prize

Lost Ground by Michiel Heyns

The Lazarus Effect by HJ Golakai

Ninevehby Henrietta Rose-Innes

Bom Boy by Yewande Omotoso

Eddie Signwriter by Adam Schwartzman

The Alan Paton Award for Non-fiction

The Shadow World by Andrew Feinstein

Diepsloot  by Anton Harber

Stones Against the Mirror by Hugh Lewin

My Father, My Monster by McIntosh Polela

Little Liberia by Jonny Steinberg

Killing Kebble by Mandy Wiener