Publisher hooked by Rhodes writer’s debut

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“It’s a novel recording a breakdown,” explains Paul Wessels, former supervisor of newly-published writer Songeziwe Mahlangu.

Mahlangu’s debut, Penumbra, was launched in Grahamstown at the National English Literary Museum Eastern Star Centre on Thursday 15 August.

The manuscript of Penumbra, which served as Mahlangu’s MA in Creative Writing thesis at Rhodes University, caught the eye Kwela Books publisher, James Woodhouse, who immediately signed him.

“Simple and beautiful,” is how Woodhouse describes Penumbra. “We read about 500 manuscripts a year and sometimes you are lucky enough to come across something that truly hooks you,” the publisher said.

Penumbra tells the story of Mangaliso Zolo, a hapless recent graduate who still lives near his old university in the southern suburbs of Cape Town. The book documents his daily struggles with mental illness and the conflicting influences of his friends affiliated with drugs and those embracing charismatic Christianity.

“Mahlangu’s voice is unlike any we’ve heard in the country. This debut novel dissects young, urban slackers in South Africa with startling precision,” said Woodhouse. He compares Penumbra to K. Sello Duiker whose award-winning The Quiet Violence of Dreams deals with similar subject matter.

Mahlangu could not attend the book launch, since he was stuck in Mthatha, but Wessels and head of the Rhodes Creative Writing MA programme, Robert Berold, read extracts from the novel.

“There is such freshness to his voice; it is so raw and open. He has an amazing future ahead of him and I am so excited to publish this,” said Woodhouse.

Photo Caption: Head of the Rhodes Creative Writing MA programme, Robert Berold, reads extracts from Songeziwe Mahlangu’s debut novel, Penumbra, at its Grahamstown launch last Thursday.

Photo and Article by: Jaime Waddington

Article Source: Grocotts Mail



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