Professor wins prestigious award for her literary fiction.

Wits University professor Bronwyn Law-Viljoen received the 2018 Olive Schreiner Prize for fiction from the English Academy of South Africa and it will be awarded on September 7, 2019.

Law-Viljoen, who is also head of the creative writing department, was awarded this prize for her 2016 novel, The Printmaker.

According to the English Academy, the Olive Schreiner Prize is a prestigious award given in recognition of outstanding literary works, and is awarded for poetry, drama or prose.

The prize winner described her book as having been “sort of like a gift”.

“I’ve been writing for a long time, short stories and fiction. It was my first time taking on a big project like this and it took me five years,” said Law-Viljoen.

Law-Viljoen said the idea for her novel came to her when she was working at a gallery in Johannesburg. She met a woman who came to South Africa from Australia for her friend’s funeral and found Law-Viljoen completely by chance.

The woman discovered her deceased friend had an archive filled with thousands of books, prints and art in boxes that he left for her. The books were given to Law-Viljoen.

“I had these boxes in my house, whispering in my ear. I couldn’t resist the story of a person who had made art his whole life but nobody knew who he was,” she said.

She recalled being fascinated by the impulse to make art because of the passion to do so, and the fictional character in her book was loosely based on her idea of that artist.

School of Literature, Language and Media head Professor Dan Ojwang, who is also a colleague of Law-Viljoen, said this recognition is something the school takes pride in and sees not simply as a public relations opportunity.

“There is a lot of different work that academics do and it can be a lonely journey, happening behind the shadows.

“It is always a delight that after months and years of toil, the products of one’s labour reaches public knowledge and is received in this manner,” Ojwang said.

The first Olive Schreiner Prize was awarded in 1964. Law-Viljoen told Wits Vuvuzela she feels honoured to be part of history and in the company of those esteemed writers who were previous recipients of the award.

She listed Oswalt Mtshali, Douglas Livingstone, Lionel Abrahams, John Kani, Antjie Krog and Zakes Mda as some of the previous recipients of the award, whose work she grew up reading and admiring.

FEATURED IMAGE: Professor Bronwyn Law-Viljoen at the School of Literature Language and Media department with her novel, The Printmaker.

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