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Find out more about this week’s Open Book Festival in Cape Town

Find out more about this week’s Open Book Festival in Cape Town
Image: Courtesy of the Open Book Festival.

Traitor cops, memorable misfits, survivors, sexual liberation and the future of South African publishing – this year’s Open Book Festival has it all.

The Open Book Festival, South Africa’s foremost literary jamboree, will be happening from 8 to 10 September 2023, with a feast of books and authors descending on Cape Town. 

In 2022, post-Covid, the organisers decided to focus on South Africa-based writers, who needed all our support (and sales) after the pandemic. Similarly, this year, the majority of those featured at the festival are based locally, but they will be joined by a selection of writers from across Africa as well.

International guest highlights include Ghanaian writer Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, the author of The Sex Lives of African Women, which Publishers Weekly described as “an astonishing report on the quest for sexual liberation”; Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, the award-winning and internationally acclaimed Ugandan-British novelist; and Kenyan author Wanjiru Koinange, whose debut novel, The Havoc of Choice, has been described as “one of the best accounts of the new Africa in years”.

In the face of a formidable programme, we’ve picked out a medley of not-to-be-missed events. See the full programme here, see the full list of authors here and book your tickets here.

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Friday, 8 September 2023

The Promise

Damon Galgut (author of The Promise, winner of the Booker Prize) and Sylvaine Strike (director of the novel’s stage adaptation) speak to Africa Melane about the process of getting from page to stage.

Time: 12pm-1pm
Venue: Avalon Theatre
Price: R50

The Banality of Violence

Nechama Brodie (Domestic Terror: Intimate Partner Violence In South Africa), Caryn Dolley (To The Wolves: How Traitor Cops Crafted South Africa’s Underworld) and Morabo Morojele (Three Egg Dilemma) explore the normalisation of pervasive violence in the company of Erin Bates.

Time: 2pm-3pm
Venue: Avalon Theatre
Price: R50

The Future of Publishing

In the context of a drastically weaker rand, load shedding woes and concerns about representation, Mervyn Sloman talks to Eugene Ashton (CEO, Jonathan Ball Publishers), Mbali Sikakana (commissioning editor, NB Publishers) and Karina Szczurek (owner of Karavan Press) about their thoughts and plans for the future.

Time: 6pm-7pm
Venue: Avalon Theatre
Price: R50

Saturday, 9 September 2023

Creative Responses to Conflict

Andrew Brown, advocate, police reservist and acclaimed writer (Street Blues: The Experiences of a Reluctant Policeman, shortlisted for the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award, and the Sunday Times Fiction Prize-winning Coldsleep Lullaby), Wanjiru Koinange, author of the novel The Havoc of Choice, a story about family, politics and journeying through a fractured country in a delicate time; and Congolese-born poet Sarah Lubala, whose A History of Disappearance considers what it means and feels to be a refugee, speak to Bongani Kona.

Time: 12pm-1pm
Venue: Book Lounge
Price: R50

Collecting the Words

Diane Awerbuck, prize-winning writer, reviewer and editor, whose new short story collection Inside Your Body There Are Flowers will be launched at the festival; Cameroonian-born poet Sue Nyamnjoh, whose collection [un]ravelling takes on the universal themes of love, grief, joy and loneliness; and Zibu Sithole, whose debut The Thing with Zola is a humorous and sexy beach read about a young woman navigating the working world, speak to Karina Szczurek about their writing journeys.

Date: 9 September 2023

Time: 12pm-1pm
Venue: Workshop
Price: R50

Compelled to Speak

Festival coordinator Frankie Murrey, who will be a familiar face to regular festival attendees – let’s be clear, she’s the beating heart of Open Book – finally gets some time in the spotlight herself, as she is ushered on stage by Mervyn Sloman to talk about her exquisite collection of short stories, Everyone Dies.

Time: 2pm-3pm
Venue: Avalon Theatre
Price: R50

Sunday, 10 September 2023

Motivations for Writing

Athambile Masola (Noni Jabavu: A Stranger At Home), Nombeko Nontshokweni (uNobuntu) and Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah (The Sex Lives of African Women) speak to Pumelela Nqelenga about writing to fill in gaps, unsilence and heal.

Time: 10am-11am
Venue: Star Theatre
Price: R50

Resilience and Recovery

Karen Dudley, whose latest book Onwards chronicles the pandemic-exacted closure of her iconic Woodstock restaurant The Kitchen; Sarah Isaacs, whose debut novel Glass Towers won the inaugural Island Prize for a Debut Novel from Africa; and Melanie Verwoerd (Never Waste a Good Hysterectomy: Life Lessons From a Crisis) speak to Pippa Hudson about moving out of trauma.

Time: 10am-11am
Venue: Book Lounge
Price: R50

Heritage Politics

Tessa Dooms (Coloured: How Classification Became Culture); Nadia Kamies (Off-Centre and Out of Focus: Growing Up ‘Coloured’ in South Africa) and Patric Tariq Mellet (Cleaner’s Boy: A Resistance Road to a Liberated Life) speak to Lester Kiewit about grappling with the past to imagine a future.

Time: 12pm-1pm
Venue: Workshop
Price: R50 DM

Visit The Reading List for South African book news, daily – including new publications and events!

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