Jonny Steinberg

Using a novelistic style that gives everyday people heroic complexity and scale, Jonny Steinberg allows us to encounter lives that enlarge our empathy and sharpen our understanding of the human condition.

Jonny Steinberg is a South African writer and scholar. In books like Midlands (2002), about the murder of a white South African farmer, and The Number (2004), a biography of a prison gang member, Steinberg uses personal narratives to shed new light on contemporary South African life and politics. Three-Letter Plague (2008, published in the U.S. as Sizwe’s Test) tells the story of one South African man’s refusal to be tested for HIV, elucidating the deep stigma and cultural ambivalence that continue to characterize the country’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. Steinberg expanded his attention beyond South Africa with the publication of Little Liberia (2011), in which the trauma of Liberia’s civil war is approached obliquely through an exile community in New York. In addition to his books, Steinberg is a regular columnist for South Africa’s Sunday Times and a lecturer in African Studies at the University of Oxford. His book A Man of Good Hope, about the journey of a Somali man across the length of the African continent, was published in 2015.

I feel honored but also enormously lucky; there is so much very good work out there. To honor the spirit of the prize I will endeavor to use it to embark on a writing project that would not have been possible otherwise. JONNY STEINBERG