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Richard de Nooy

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Pre-Emptive Letter of Refusal to SA PEN

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Amsterdam, April 2015

Dear Mandla Langa,

Thank you for your kind letter inviting me to become a member of SA PEN, so that – as you so eloquently put it – “[my] writing may find a home instead of wandering aimlessly through the literary wasteland halfway between South Africa and the Netherlands.”

Unfortunately, I must decline as I feel I am not eligible for membership on the following grounds:

1. I renounced my South African citizenship in the mid-1980s, partly because I felt the Apartheid regime had sufficient young, white men to subjugate the uprising that was underway at the time, and partly because I never fully developed the predilection for mowing down poorly armed protesters.

2. I currently write my novels in Dutch first, before rewriting them in English. This implies that the English works I publish in South Africa are actually translations, as I pointed out to the judges of the now defunct M-Net Literary Award. It is rumoured that the panel subsequently disbanded itself as well as the award, as they were unable to decide whether they should assign my writing to the English or Afrikaans category, or whether they might create a special category for Former South Africans Writing in Proto-Colonial Languages. I’m sure you’ll agree that my alleged role in the loss of this illustrious award is sufficient reason to disqualify me for membership of your organisation.

3. My contributions to various South African short-story anthologies were requested based on the misapprehension that I am a South African citizen. That said, you can imagine my relief when my short story, Stowaway , was not selected as one of the twenty best stories published in South Africa since the first democratic elections and, more recently, when the judges of the Lambda Literary Award did not disqualify the Queer Africa anthology on the grounds that one of the contributing authors was neither queer nor African.

4. Thankfully, my South African publishers have stopped submitting my books for any awards, as I have advised them I do not have the time to keep selecting worthy causes to which I might donate my prize money every time I win. The fact that my mother saved the prize money from the UJ Award for Best First Book to buy a one-way ticket out of South Africa to the Netherlands is indicative of the gene pool from which I crawled, strengthening my guilt-fuelled resolve to decline your kind offer of membership.

5. Were I to accept membership of your illustrious organisation, my credentials as an honorary South African author might make me eligible for a host of other Commonwealth and African awards, compelling me to disappoint innumerable other officials (including HRH Queen Elisabeth) who wish to nominate, acknowledge or reward me for my paltry efforts on behalf of the muse.

I sincerely hope this letter has not caused you undue distress and that you will find comfort and support in the warm embrace of your fellow committee members. I also hope it will not deter you from approaching other authors deemed to be sufficiently South African to warrant membership.

Yours in writing,

Richard de Nooy

(Click here for more pre-emptive letters of rejection.)

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Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    April 6th, 2015 @14:34 #

    Too busy wincing to laugh. But well played, dear Richard.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
    Richard de Nooy
    April 6th, 2015 @14:41 #

    Thank you, dear Helen.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    April 8th, 2015 @14:58 #

    Aw Richard - imagine crinkly not really smiling emoticon.


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