One of the greatest business tips you’ll ever receive comes originally from Forbes: If You Want to Succeed in Business, Read More Novels. Although we love the business “how-to” books we’ve reviewed in this column previously, we can’t value the reading of fiction highly enough!
Studies show that reading fiction “… actually increases people’s emotional intelligence: their accurate awareness of themselves and others, and their ability to create positive relationships with others based on managing their own reactions.” Aren’t those exactly the skills that every SME needs to thrive, rather than merely survive?
That’s why we’re giving away three copies of the latest South African fiction collection, Trade Secrets. This anthology of the winning short stories is by South African authors who entered the Short Sharp Stories Award. Trade Secrets touches all the right nerves and stirs all the best of imagined possibilities for our country at this particular moment in history.
Another important aspect of this anthology is the doors it opens for those who are published between its covers to access the international stage. Eastern Cape writer, filmmaker and photographer, Lidudumalingani, whose story ‘Memories We Lost‘, won the 2015 Short Sharp Stories Award, went on to win the 2016 Caine Prize for African Writing. Fellow contributor to the 2015 Short Sharp Story Award anthology, Incredible Journey, Bongani Kona, was shortlisted for the Caine Prize and travelled to award ceremony held in London earlier this year.
As one of the three judges, I am in the privileged position of recommending the four stories that I liked best. Read the other judges’ reports here!:
Mishka Hoosen‘s ‘Wedding Henna’, which won the R20 000 prize for best story, is a powerful exploration of the erotic taboo behind the hijab. Her tender and sensual writing explores the delicate process of painting lacy floral patterns on the bride’s hands. Behind this technical artistry, the author weaves another, more haunting tale, as the narrator decorates her ex-lover’s hands in henna on the morning of her wedding.
Megan Ross‘ ‘Eye Teeth’ (R5000 runner up) was my favourite. This is a lyrical psalm of recovery written from the worst type of betrayal. As we contemplate Women’s month, this story reminds one that the abuse all too frequently takes place in the home, by those we know and love. The reader is treated to a masterful insight into the artistry inherent in the process of creating tattoos. At a deeper level, this story is a rewriting of a trauma narrative by a narrator who reclaims the geography of her body, effecting both a re-imaging and a re-imagining of her past.
‘My Cuban’ is a thrilling story by poet, Stephen Symons, which shows this talented writer trying out a new form. By the end of the story, I wished it was the first chapter of a 20-chapter novel. I hope this poet, now turned short story writer, might yet have a novel for the world. His craft and structure are excellent. It is a reader’s delight to encounter a writer who balances the condense power of poetry in the expanded line of fiction.
Lastly, ‘The Entomologist’s Dream’ by Andrew Salomon, was one of the most powerful stories I have read in a long time. This writer takes the merciless form of the police report and imbues it with a shimmering, and entirely unpredictable transformation. An all too real account of grotesque suffering is gradually unpacked, taking the reader on an unimaginable journey into the history of Rwanda. This story is magnificent. Salomon is a writer who will surprise us yet.
Readers will find very different stories jostling for their attention in this charming collection. Amateurs and professionals, academics and poets feature in Trade Secrets. New writers, who have just begun to refine their craft, rub shoulders alongside award-winning writers and highly experienced journalists. This book offers a flavour from every walk of South African life.
Each story holds its own unique resonance. Particularly refreshing are the new voices articulating stories that haven’t been well represented historically. The following writers are deserving of encouragement, mentoring and – in an ideal world where artists are supported by the State – a stipend that would enable them to hone their skills: Ntsika Gogwana, Mapule Mohulatsi, Olufemi Agunbiade, Jumani Clarke and Linda Daniels.
Others who turned their pens and imaginations to the task are Darrel Bristow-Bovey, Frieda-Marie De Jager, Amy Heydenrych, Bobby Jordan, Sean Mayne, Kerry Hammerton, Sally Anne Murray, Kamil Naicker, Sally Partridge, Pravasan Pillay, Philip Vermaas and Michael Yee.
Award-winning novelist, Yewande Omotoso, wrote a beautiful foreword that might just be the encouragement you need to try your hand at fiction: “Ultimately my wish is that more and more people from all corners of the country embark on the romancing of Short Story and that more is written and published in anthologies like this one; because it is a pulse of our vitality, our sense of what there is to celebrate, our humour, our honour, our suspense. It’s a pulse for that very private cipher of humanity within which so much else vial to society is locked – our imagination.”
Enter the 2018 Short Sharp Stories Award with your own short story. Next year’s contest has the them “Instant Exposure”. So… check out the rules, turn your pen to the page, and send your entry in by 30 November 2017.
WIN A COPY OF TRADE SECRETS by sharing this book review on your favourite social media platform. Make sure you use the hashtag #ShortSharpStories by noon on Tuesday, 19 September. Three lucky winners will receive a copy of the book. The snappiest, smartest, sharpest social media posts will win!
Liesl Jobson is an writer, photographer and musician. Formerly a consulting editor of Books LIVE, she is now Fetola’s media co-ordinator. She is the author of Ride the Tortoise, 100 Papers, (which was translated into Italian as Cento strappi) and View from an Escalator as well as three Book Dash children’s books. She enjoys promoting the success of the small business entrepreneurs who make South Africa work.