South Africa has loomed large on the Four Colman Getty agenda this month. We have for the last year and more been organising a visit to Cape Town where the judges of the 2014/15 Man Booker International Prize were to announce and celebrate their list of finalists, after two years of reading the works of over 100 writers.
And then, just as we were setting off, Macmillan - for whom we work year-round - asked us to announce some hot news. The story of their forthcoming sequel to Nelson Mandela’s international bestseller Long Walk to Freedom hit the headlines worldwide, but particularly, in South Africa, as we touched down.
It was an extraordinary coincidence made all the more bizarre by the fact that the students at the University of Cape Town (UCT), our partner university for the MBI announcement, had a fortnight earlier mounted their Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) campaign. The immediate objective is to destroy the statue of Cecil Rhodes, which gazes down over the city from the heights of UCT. The longer term objective is change, not just in UCT, but within the educational structure of South Africa as a whole. I'm sure Nelson Mandela would have approved.
Sad news arrived while we were in Cape Town. Martyn Goff, for three decades the éminence grise of the (Man) Booker Prize, died after a long period of declining health. I worked with Martyn for almost twenty years on the prize and loved his legendary flamboyance, quickness of wit - and abiding belief in the value of a good gossip-y lunch. He will be much missed.