Of this year's Alan Paton Award shortlist for non-fiction, which is primarily autobiographical or biographical, Bonny Schoonakker writes in The Sunday Times: "This year the crop tends towards the personal, the particular and the recreational. This, the judges believe, points to a society considerably more at ease with itself..."
Titles on the Alan Paton Award shortlist are:
• Ahmed Kathrada: Memoirs by Ahmed Kathrada
• All Under Heaven by Darryl Accone
• The Number by Jonny Steinberg
• Oliver Tambo: Beyond the Engeli Mountains by Luli Callinicos
• Shirley, Goodness & Mercy by Chris van Wyk
• The Free Diary of Albie Sachs by Albie Sachs
The Fiction Award shortlist includes:
• In Tangier We Killed the Blue Parrot by Barbara Adair
• The Promise of Happiness by Justin Cartwright
• Karoo Boy by Troy Blacklaws
• One Tongue Singing by Susan Mann
The selection has not been without controversy. Besides listing four instead of the usual five titles in the fiction section, the judging panel also decided to disqualify acclaimed author Ivan Vladislavic's book The Exploded View.
The book was ruled ineligible because the panel deemed that it was not a full length novel one of the criteria for the competition but rather "a quartet of interlinked fiction" as billed by its publishers.
The book was viewed as a firm favourite for the Fiction Award and its withdrawal caused a stir in the country's literary circles.
According to a report in The Sunday Times, author Jenny Hobbs labelled the judges' move "a 'travesty' and described Vladislavic as 'one of our finest writers in an ocean of mediocrity'."
But the judges stood firm: they released a press release saying their move "does not imply a qualitative judgment of Vladislavic's work".
"Far from it: Vladislavic?s literary gifts have been recognised by the Sunday Times. He was awarded the Fiction Award for his novel The Restless Supermarket in 2002."
The winners will be announced at a function at the Arabella Sheraton Hotel in Cape Town on Saturday, August 27.