- Created: 29 January 2014
Ishtiyaq Shukri was born in Johannesburg in 1968. He was educated in Cape Town and Johannesburg and studied South Asian literature at the School of Oriental African Studies (SOAS), London where he also edited the SOAS Literary Review.
Shukri's novel The Silent Minaret received the inaugural European Union Literary Award in 2005 for best first novel by a new South African writer. According to the judges headed by South African Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer, the novel "investigates what happens to belief when personal ideals are betrayed by world events, while at the same time shining light on an [Islamic] subculture that is controversial and misunderstood." Described as “an important and striking post-apartheid novel” and “brave debut”, The Silent Minaret revolves around the disappearance of a young South African student, Issa Shamsuddin, from Finsbury Park, London at the height of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The story of Issa's mysterious disappearance unfolds cyclically, looping backwards and forwards between present London where Issa is studying History and apartheid South Africa where he was actively involved in the anti-apartheid struggle.
In August, Shukri travelled to the city where his novel ends, Qalqilya, Palestine, to investigate the impact of The Apartheid Wall, which Israel is building illegally around the West Bank. His travel journal Palestine Journey was published by Chimurenga Magazine in December. His challenge to British High Commissioner to South Africa Paul Boateng following the first suicide bombings in London and his comment on the race riots that swept through France were also published nationally in South Africa by the WeeklyMail and Guardian.
There is an urgency to Shukri's work, a testimony to the time in which he is writing. At the start of the 'war on terror', he “felt besieged once again, this time, by a far mightier force than the apparatus of the Apartheid State.” He states, “it became apparent to me that the main political themes of my generation would be Apartheid and the infinite retribution of the endless 'war on terror.' " War, poverty, racism, exclusion, these realities are the writer's concerns and writing a means of resisting them.
The Silent Minaret, Jacana Press, 2005