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Top 5 Journals of Fine Writing

The shift towards a digitalised world meant that the publishing industry either had to adapt, innovate, or become obsolete. Where some have disappeared, we've also seen how thoughtful, quality titles that resonate with the reader have come to the fore, ensuring their survival through beautifully curated content translated into loyal readership.

When you're not reading the latest copy of HL, the niche universe of independent publications offer literary buffs a collection of fiction, poetry, illustration and photography bound together in artful journals. These archives of culture are reflective of the current order of society, giving insight into the hopes, desires and struggles of the human experience.

Here's 5 of the finest indie publications available in South Africa today:

1. Cereal (UK)

Cereal is a quarterly food and travel publication focusing on 'the significant elements of a good life.' Crafted in Bristol, I love their minimalist aesthetic that fuses elegant simplicity, soft colours and mystery into 140 pages of advertisement-free and perfectly bound full-colour content. Cereal Volume 9 has just launched with a new literary supplement called WEEK|END that explores some of the ideas around taste. In other reading, expect to be transported in style to Yukon in Canada, Hong Kong and the English seaside town of St Ives. Cereal is stocked at HL hotspot The Jungle in Craighall Park, with the new issue fresh on their shelves!

R240 from the Jungle or from Exclusive Books. 


2. Prufrock (SA)

Once regarded as outlandish, T.S Eliot's famous poem Prufrock is now revered as the embodiment of a cultural shift from Romantic verse to Modernism. Speaking loosely, it follows a young, self-conscious writer who is riddled with all the flaws and foolery of the human condition. This enduring character became the unlikely muse for South Africa's premier magazine of fine writing which launched in May 2013. 'It is inspired to act as a mouthpiece for a young South Africa. It is a means to say the unsayable, name the unnameable and to have fun along the way,' writes founder and editor Helen Sullivan. Expect a curated collection of selected submissions including short stories, poetry, non-fiction and photographs that span across South African languages. Prufrock is available at good book stores and cafés and you can find your nearest stockist here.

Selling at R55 per issue, but rather sign up for a year's subscription (6 issues) for R300.


3. Frankie (AUS)

With a mantra for every issue as ‘try not to suck,’ this bi-monthly anthology of fashion, art, photography and personalised writing from Australian-based Frankie crossed international waters and has made its way onto South African shelves. The indie publication recently turned 10 years old, and over the decade have managed to conjure an army of devoted Frankie followers that have subscribed to their matte pages of 'smart, funny, sarcastic, friendly, cute, rude, arty, curious and caring' content. Editor Jo Walker recounts what has changed most in the last 10 years: 'when I contact people I no longer have to spend half an hour explaining who I am, what Frankie is, and that I’m not a random crank calling them for no reason.' Yes to paper-bound success!

Frankie can also be found at the Jungle for R189 or at selected CNA and Exclusive Book stores.


4. New Contrast (SA)

The New Contrast Literary Journal has been down a tumultuous road since its founding in 1960. The journal has launched the careers of many of our most notable writers and been through times of plenty and relative wide circulation to barely staying afloat through sweeping editorial and financial changes. Nonetheless, it remains a significant tapestry of poetry and verse that tells a uniquely South African story and incidentally, offers insight into varying going-ons within the melting pot of SA culture. As with most small literary magazines, the editing and management is a voluntary effort. You can buy this special treasure of homegrown history online or at independent bookstores like Clarke's Books and the The Book Lounge in Cape Town and Love Books in JHB.

Pick up New Contrast for R90 an issue or better yet, pay R350 for a year's subscription.


  5. Chimurenga (SA) Described by editor Ntone Edjabe as 'a flowering of organic schools of thought grown in backyard gardens, tilled and fertilised by the fundamentals of humanity, preached and sometimes practiced,' Chimurenga is a Pan African journal of culture, art and politics based in Cape Town. The journal is published irregularly in print, online and through themed performances called Chimurenga Sessions. Their latest offering comes from the quarterly gazette bringing memoirs, essays, reportage and fiction together as a tool for mapping out the political, cultural and economic realities we experience on the African continent. Buy the March 2015 Chronic entitled 'New Cartographies' online. The Chronic sells for $11 (R133) for the print version and on digital for  $7 (R85). Back issues of the journal cost $14 (R170).