Struggle veteran Hugh Lewin and former Stellenbosch professor Michiel Heyns are the winners of the 2012 Sunday Times Literary Awards. Lewin took the 24th Alan Paton prize for non-fiction while Heyns scooped a second win in the fiction category. The awards, worth R75,000 to each author, were announced last night at a ceremony at Summer Place in Hyde Park, Johannesburg and are considered the most prestigious literary accolades in the country.
Lewin won for his memoir, Stones Against The Mirror (published by Umuzi), which the judges described as “a beautifully written and intensely personal story of friendship, betrayal and struggle”. The book tells the story of Lewin’s journey to meet his former colleague and friend, Adrian Leftwich, who had betrayed him to the security police in 1964 resulting in a lengthy jail sentence for sabotage.
The chair of the Alan Paton judging panel, Prishani Naidoo, said this was “not a story of reconciliation, it speaks in very moving ways to the truth of the character of experiences of friendship, politics and life in apartheid South Africa”.
Lewin commented, “I am thrilled to have won the 24th Alan Paton Award and I have to express my gratitude to Ray Hartley and his team at the Sunday Times who helps to nurture the literature in South Africa – and that is vital!”
Lewin previously won the 2003 Olive Schreiner Prize for his book Bandiet Out of Jail. A former journalist, he went into exile after completing his jail sentence, returning to South Africa in 1992.
Michiel Heyns completed a rare double win in the Sunday Times Fiction Prize with Lost Ground (published by Jonathan Ball), a crime story set in the Karoo. Heyns was a previous joint winner in 2007 for his exceptional translation of Marlene van Niekerk’s Agaat.
Lost Ground was described by the judging panel chair, Professor Sarah Nuttall as “clever, fast and funny”, and she praised its “sheer range of characters” with voices that are “authentic and profound as they unravel the deep threads of what is holding them together”.
Heyns’ said of the award, “I was privileged to be on an extremely strong shortlist this year and wasn’t at all optimistic about winning the 2012 Fiction Prize, but what a wonderful surprise it was when the announcement was made. I must say that I am pleased and honoured to have been in such good shortlist company.”
The 68-year-old Michiel Heyns retired as a professor of English at Stellenbosch University in 2003 to take up full-time writing and has produced five novels – including the recently published Invisible Furies – as well as the award-winning translation of Agaat.
“Once again the awards continue to recognise the best in local fiction and non-fiction and demonstrate the Sunday Times’ commitment to encouraging and promoting local writing. We congratulate the winners and acknowledge the difficult but excellent work done by the judging panels for both prizes, and look forward to an equally strong field of entries and shortlists for next year’s awards,” concludes Sunday Times Books Editor and convener of the judging panels, Tymon Smith.