High-profile writers attend Cape Town Book Fair

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High-profile writers and social commentators, including Wole Soyinka, Desmond Tutu, Mamphele Ramphele, cartoonist Zapiro and Chris van Wyk have enthralled book lovers at the Cape Town Book Fair.The fair ran from July 31 to August 2, with more than 18 000 people streaming through the doors of the Cape Town International Convention Centre on the first two days.

A highlight of the fair was the world launch of Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s illustrated children’s Bible “Children of God”.

The Nobel Laureate addressed the launch of this book just a week after he announced his retirement from public life.

The book, Children of God, has involved 20 illustrators from around the world and will be distributed by 10 international publishing companies. It has thus far been translated into 11 languages, including several South African languages, and is aimed at children between the ages of four and seven. The book contains 50 of Tutu’s favourite bible stories, with accompanying illustrations.

The first print run sees 200 000 copies being printed.

In other sessions, UNISA historian Muff Andersson and journalist and author Fred Khumalo warned of the dangers of South Africa’s Protection of Information Bill, which threatens to dramatically curtail the media’s access to information. They were speaking in the forums ‘South Africa in 2010: Development or Decline?’, and ‘Writing after Apartheid and the Berlin Wall’, respectively. Another recurring theme in debates was whether South Africa should lead Africa on the world stage, or whether a special African G8 should be formed for this purpose.

Ramphele spoke at the launch of Dr Wilmot James’s new book Nature’s Gift which, she said, revealed how science made “nonsense” of racial classification.

Cartoonist Zapiro had a packed lecture theatre in stitches during his rollercoaster cartoon sports commentary. “I went through about 4 000 cartoons to give this presentation. I’ve never put my sports cartoons together before – there may be a book in it somewhere,” he said.

Authors who discussed their work include international bestselling writer Jodi Picoult; renowned German writer Ingo Schulze; South African crime writing Deon Meyer; Lawrence Anthony, the author of The Elephant Whisperer; and Chris van Wyk, who discussed his memoir Eggs to Lay, Chickens to Hatch.

South African journalist and author Fred Khumalo and German author Ingo Schulze discussed writing after the demise of apartheid and the fall of the Berlin Wall. “Now that apartheid has ended, should the writer now abandon his role as a social commentator? I think not – this is only the beginning of a new struggle,” said Khumalo, who then read out a hilarious column lambasting ANC Youth League Leader Julius Malema.

The winners of the MNet Literary Awards were interviewed by Ruda Landman. Sally-Ann Murray won the English literary award for Small Moving Parts; Eben Venter won the Afrikaans literary award for Santa Gamka, and Prof Peter Mtuze won the award for the Nguni languages category for Lingada Zibuyile Endle (Wild Cats Have Come Homes).

The CTBF offered all members of its Facebook group to contribute to a run-on story, “Where the story begins”, and a staggering 92 people contributed to the tale featuring vampires, Oreo biscuits and an exhausted community service doctor. The story was read out at the CTBF.

Regarding the professional side of the fair, exhibitors were generally very satisfied with the business-to-business side the fair. Some said they were very happy with all the new contacts they had made, while others said they had made very good sales at the end of the day.

Naveen Kishore of India-based Seagull Books said he liked the “intimate” setting, which gave sellers direct contact with buyers. “It’s nice to get a sense of what buyers think of your books,” he said. “We are starting an Africa list, and we ended up doing nice business. I like the size of the fair, and it’s really well organised.”

* For more information, quotes and stories, log on to www.capetownbookfair.com.

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