Press release: Announcement of the winner of the Philida Literary Award in 2024

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Photo of Penny Haw: Provided

Today, on the ninth anniversary of André Brink’s death, we pay tribute to his life and work and announce that the Philida Literary Award, established in his memory in 2020, goes to Penny Haw and is awarded to her for an oeuvre of literary excellence.

Penny Haw worked as a journalist and columnist for more than three decades, writing for many leading South African newspapers and magazines before yielding to a lifelong yearning to create fiction. Her stories feature remarkable women, illustrate her love for nature, and explore the interconnectedness of all living things. Her first title, Nicko: The Tale of a Vervet Monkey on an African Farm, was a children’s book and was published in 2017. Her first novel for adults, The Wilderness Between Us, was published by Köehler Books in the US in 2021. A year later, she published The Invincible Miss Cust, her debut historical fiction, which she followed with another historical novel, The Woman at the Wheel, in 2023 (both published in the US by Sourcebooks). She lives near Cape Town with her husband and three dogs, all of whom are well-walked.

The Philida Literary Award is awarded annually to a writer mid-career for an oeuvre of between three to five books of any genre. Established in 2020 by Karina M. Brink (writing under her maiden name Szczurek) in memory of her late husband, renowned author André Brink, the award recognises a writer with a consistent record of publishing works of excellence and aims to encourage them further in their pursuit of a literary career.

The award announcement takes place annually on the anniversary of André’s death, 6 February.

The award is named after a historical figure, the slave woman Philida van de Caab, a knitting woman, who entered South Africa’s archival records because of laying an official complaint against her masters, Francois and Cornelius Brink, distant relatives of André’s. She became the protagonist of André’s last published novel, Philida (2012). André’s rendition of her courage and resilience continues to inspire readers and writers around the world.

Each winner receives an award certificate designed by Debbie Minné and an amount of money that was first determined by the royalties earned from the sales of You Make Me Possible: The Love Letters of Karina M. Szczurek and André Brink (Protea Book House, 2018) and is now sponsored by Karavan Press. As Karina wrote in her Note on the publication of You Make Me Possible: with André’s encouragement and support, she was able to acknowledge the fact that she was a writer; he was an inspiration to many other writers and was always generous with his time and expertise in furthering the literary careers of others. The Philida Literary Award continues this legacy.

Penny Haw on accepting the Philida Literary Award: “I am in tears! Thank you. This is such an honour and I’m finding it difficult to express myself. Gobsmacked. Grateful. Overwhelmed. It means so, so much to me and I feel so privileged to accept it. Oh wow! André taught me Afrikaans in my first year of university at Rhodes (1982). It was a life-changing year for me. One of the bright spots was being taught by him. I wish I had had the chance to tell him that. Somehow this award closes a circle for me. Thank you.”

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