World Book Day Recommendations: “Five Books I Love” — Sihle Ntuli
For World Book Day, 2021 and #365DaysOfBookOclock, we asked South African poet and classicist, Sihle Ntuli to share with us five books that has either shaped his writing or he generally loves.
Sihle Ntuli is a South African poet and classicist living in Durban. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Classical Civilisations and has previously lectured at the University of the Free State. His poetry was shortlisted for the DALRO Poetry Prize in 2017. He most recently became the author of a poetry chapbook Rumblin' in 2020. He has had work published in South Africa and across the African continent on notable journals such as Lolwe, Down River Road & The Johannesburg Review of books.
Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera (Zimbabwe)
I tend to gravitate towards a work that challenges me to think out loud. At some points, I would put this book down and really have a good think about black life in the world and black love. Yvonne Vera’s novel uses poetic prose to depict life in a Zimbabwean township. At times I found it a quite brutal but truthful depiction of black love and our shared lived experiences. The novel showed me that even across borders, our lives have far more similarities than we would think.
Earthstepper / The Ocean Is Very Shallow by Seitlhamo Motsapi (South Africa)
I consider this one a South African classic, across all genres for that matter. I really respect art that is willing to take risks, in particular doing what the old guard would frown upon. The creolo-like patois nuances infused within this body of work makes it different and distinctive. If I’m going on a trip, Earthstepper is generally one of the first few books that go into my bag. This collection was and still is one of those aha moments for me, that anything is possible with our wonderful genre.
Song of Lawino & Song of Ocol by Okot p’Bitek (Uganda)
Can you believe that Song of Lawino & Song of Ocol are two poems!. This one is a quintessential selection not only for the way it is written but also for its message which still resonates even today. If there was a coursework for decolonial poetry this would certainly have to be included. Song of Lawino in particular hits quite close to home especially since there are many instances where I find myself being asked to choose between my blackness or the institution.
The Present Is a Dangerous Place to Live by Keorapetse Kgositsile (South Africa)
Rumblin’ would not be possible if it weren’t for this collection. Of all his works, this would be my personal favourite from Kgositsile but it’s also quite a rare find. This particular collection was written while Kgositsile was away from South Africa. There is a profound pro-black message resonating throughout this collection, though for me Kgositsile was quite a keen observer of the happenings around him. I like this collection because it asks questions of me and my role within the genre, in particular the purpose of my writing.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (India)
Arundhati Roy really puts on a masterclass here through some intensely lyrical and highly descriptive prose.
The God of Small Things is a multi-layered novel that unravels like a highly stimulating mosaic exploring the sociological aspects of Indian life.
Roy does such a fine job in intricately weaving astonishing pictures that were enough for me to imagine myself being in India as witness to the events that transpire in the novel. This is one quite memorable novel that has managed to stay with me.
World Book Day Recommendations is a series of book recommendations made by African contemporary writers for World Book Day, 2021 and Book O’Clock’s anniversary.