Mignonne Breier wins Sunday Times Literary Award for Bloody Sunday
Mignonne Breier has won the 2022 Sunday Times Literary Award for non-fiction for Bloody Sunday: The Nun, the Defiance Campaign and South Africa’s Secret Massacre, published by Tafelberg, an imprint of NB Publishers, in March 2021.
Bloody Sunday should be remembered as a day of infamy in South Africa’s history but few know of the brutal massacre when police opened fire on people at an ANC Youth League organised event in Duncan Village in East London.
The official death toll was eight people killed by police gunfire and bayonet and two killed in retaliation, including an Irish nun and medical doctor, Sister Aidan Quinlan, who lived and worked in Duncan Village. Today it is believed that between 80 and 200 died that day, most buried quietly by their families, who feared arrest if they sought help at hospitals. In the coverups and long silences that followed, the real facts of this tragedy at the height of the ANC’s Defiance Campaign were almost lost to history.
Bloody Sunday follows the trail of the remarkable Sister Aidan into the heart of a missing chapter in our country’s past – and what was one of the most devastating massacres of the apartheid era.
Mignonne Breier is a former journalist, lecturer and education researcher who has worked at the University of Cape Town, University of the Western Cape and the Human Sciences Research Council. She is also the author of Letters to My Son, published in 2013.
Breier received the award, presented in partnership with Exclusive Books, in Johannesburg. In Bloody Sunday, the author sheds light on a little-known massacre and its devastating fallout. The events of that day were never officially investigated. Chair of judges for the non-fiction prize Griffin Shea said: “For a moment when we are trying to figure out how the country, and the world, have ended up such a mess, Breier’s Bloody Sunday reminds us that things were always messy. True to her journalistic tact, she quotes others to convey those meanings she wants to get across.
She quotes Njabulo Ndebele in a speech he gave at the anniversary of the massacre: ‘The more we tell the story of what we did, we create the possibility that through our efforts we can create the future that we still desire’.”
The non-fiction award criteria ask that the winner should demonstrate the illumination of truthfulness, especially those forms of it that are new, delicate, unfashionable, and fly in the face of power; compassion; elegance of writing; and intellectual and moral integrity.
Mignonne Breier said: “I’m thrilled that Bloody Sunday has received this recognition and that more people will find it now. There is a lot in our history that has been covered up – both sides committed violence, but nobody wants to present an unheroic story. So, the story got buried. We can learn a few things from our past, reflecting on our mistakes so we don’t repeat them in the future. I’d like to thank everyone in Duncan Village who talked to me and assisted me in writing this book.”’
About Bloody Sunday: It was a Sunday on 9 November 1952. It should be remembered as a day of infamy in South Africa’s history, but few know of a brutal massacre when police opened fire on people at an ANC Youth League-organised event in Duncan Village in East London. The official death toll was eight people killed by police gunfire and bayonet and two killed in retaliation, including an Irish nun and medical doctor, Sister Aidan Quinlan, who lived and worked in Duncan Village. Bloody Sunday follows the trail of the remarkable Sister Aidan into the heart of a missing chapter in our country’s past – and what was one of the most devastating massacres of the apartheid era.
‘A truly stunning book.’ – Jacob Dlamini ‘… meticulously researched and most unsettling yet compelling …
‘The book is a clarion call for moderation and compassion…’ – Francis B. Nyamnjoh
“Documenting fully and for the first time the hideous violence – on both sides – of 9 November 1952, Bloody Sunday brings to life Santayana’s old adage that ‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’. Even if you read only one book a year, you should read this.” – Jeff Peires