The 7th European Union Literary Award has been won by Ashraf Kagee for his novel, Khalil’s Journey. The award was presented on 19 April 2012 at the French Institute of South Africa in Johannesburg.
About the Book
“He felt a compulsion to remember as much as he could, to make a good yarn out of the story trying to burst out. Khalil tried to contain it, to bottle it up, to close the lid on it, but it kept bubbling up, trying valiantly to get itself told…”
Khalil, ‘the Companion’, is given his name by The One Above at his birth in 1903. Despite evidence of this divine interest, Khalil’s eighty-odd years of life remain fairly ordinary – even though many of these years are spent under the far from ordinary conditions of The System in South Africa.
In fact, apart from the high moments – an adolescent trip to India, the fleshly delights on his wedding night, and a memorable evening spent with the Black Pimpernel at an abortive meeting organised by the New Unity Movement – Khalil’s later life is mostly taken up with trying to keep his wife and children happy and fed, first as the owner of a general dealer in Woodstock, Cape Town, and later as a less-than-convinced lackey in a wheeler-dealer consortium selling polonies and saffron. Nevertheless, just as Khalil’s birth was a matter offering material for considerable discussion for the doekie-wearing aunties of the neighbourhood, at the end of his life Khalil finds there is more than enough to chew over in his life’s journey.
Ashraf Kagee evokes the richly-textured beauty of everyday life of the last century’s Cape Malay and Indian cultures, and deftly captures the lyrical resonance of voices long forgotten by history.
About the Author
Ashraf Kagee was born in Cape Town and grew up in District Six and Wynberg. He attended the University of Cape Town and did his graduate studies in psychology in the United States. He is a professor of psychology at Stellenbosch University. He and his wife, Sadiyya live in Cape Town with their two children, Nuriyya and Ismael. Ashraf’s political awakening came in the 1980s when he, along with many other students, took part in protests and demonstrations against apartheid. He is a fan of the rock and roll of the 1950s and classic rock of the 1960s and this comes across in his writing.
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About the Award
The European Union Literary Award has at its core the ideal of promoting new South African literature that speaks not only to South Africans but also to an international audience. The award is the first of its kind in the world and is supported by various member states of the European Union.
The award has proved to be a driving force in uncovering new and talented South African fiction writers. The previous winners include:
Deeper than Colour James Clelland (2010)
Saracen at the Gates Zinaid Meeran (2009)
Till We Can Keep an Animal Megan Voysey-Braig (2008)
Coconut Kopano Matlwa (2007)
Bitches’ Brew Fred Khumalo and Ice in the Lungs Gerald Kraak (2005)
The Silent Minaret Ishtiyaq Shukri (2004)
The 2011/2012 panel of judges consisted of Rehana Rossouw (Jury Chair), Professor Isabel Hofmeyr and Dr Mongane Wally Serote.
“The voice of the voiceless has been emancipated with great skill...”
Mongane Wally Serote
“Beautifully (and differently) written… traces a real history of SA through minor, ordinary details of a family’s life and a few extraordinary experiences of not-very-powerful people.”
“A fascinating perspective on Cape Town as an Indian Ocean city, drawing in both Malay and Indian strands...”
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