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Johan Steyn

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Welcome to Johan Steyn’s Blog

Johan SteynGreetings and welcome to my blog. My novel, Father Michael’s Lottery, is set to be launched in the United States by Schaffner Press on 1 Dec, otherwise known as World AIDS Day. The launch will involve a video that I recorded recently at the University of KwaZulu Natal, whose own Press first published the book, in 2005. (For more, see the Schaffner press release below; and click here for a summary of the book.)

Having worked and travelled a lot in Africa, I became increasingly aware of the magnitude of the AIDS pandemic, ultimately the story behind the novel. The numbers are mind boggling: 22 million people living with AIDS, 61% of them women, 11million orphans, 5700 deaths per day, 2 million deaths per annum.

But these are only cold, clinical figures. They tell you nothing about the people involved, or the devastation caused on a more personal level.

I started writing this novel before antiretroviral drugs became freely available, and I tried to portray the human face of the pandemic. Also, the moral dilemma of having to care for people who are obviously dying, with no hope of access to drugs.

Since the publication of the novel, I have been working in Botswana where an excellent antiretroviral program was introduced in 2002. This, to say the least, has made an enormous difference, although I have to add that antiretroviral drugs can’t be used in isolation. Treatment must be backed up by Aids awareness programs, prevention of mother to child transmission, close attention to other associated infections like tuberculosis and obviously, social issues. Mother to child transmission in Botswana has been reduced to less than 4%, and the antiretroviral program is expanding rapidly.

Unfortunately, if one looks at the continent as a whole, the majority of people living with Aids still don’t have free access to antiretroviral drugs. There are hopeful signs that other countries are starting to follow Botswana’s example, however. In my opinion, it is immoral to deny people treatment for any reason and it is probaly true to say that this has become a human rights issue. The logistical problems in dealing with this pandemic are enormous, but even that should not be an excuse. The single most important factor in combating this scourge is the will to get stuck in and do something about it.

I hope those of you who read my novel enjoy it, and take this idea to heart.

***

PRESS RELEASE FROM SCHAFFNER PRESS

LOS ANGELES, CA- NOVEMBER 14h , 2007- FATHER MICHAEL’S LOTTERY: A NOVEL OF AFRICA by Johan Steyn , a debut novel concerning the AIDS crisis in Southern Africa, has just been named a Booksense Notable for January 2008.

The Booksense endorsement is the latest accolade bestowed upon this novel, which just hit the street in America with a SRP of $26.95. Highly acclaimed in South Africa upon its initial publication in trade paper, FATHER MICHAEL’S LOTTERY has received hearty endorsements from two Booker Award winners, Ian McEwan and Margaret Drabble, as well as glowing advance reviews.

The novel concerns the daily struggles, both tragic and comedic, of a rural clinic in the heart of AIDS-ravaged southern Africa. First published in South Africa by Kwa- Zulu University Press in 2005, it is a semiautobiographical portrayal of a doctor and his staff in their struggle in the fight against the disease as well as the ignorance and arrogance of the hospital administrators.

To launch the US publication, Schaffner Press will host two events in the Los Angeles bookselling community on Dec. 1st, International AIDS Awareness Day, at, Barnes & Noble at the Grove at 4pm and at 7pm that evening at Book Soup in West Hollywood. The presentation will feature a noted guest speaker and short video documentary about the author and the clinic where he works as chief medical officer in Botswana, as well as a phone-linked interview with him during which he will take a few minutes between his rounds that night to field questions from the audience. Collectible bookplates, previously signed by the author, will be inserted into each copy of the books sold at these events.

With this event Dr. Steyn will be able to interact with people halfway around the world, and never have to leave his clinic in Botswana where he works tirelessly as a medical officer. Publisher Tim Schaffner, remarked, “I am proud to be able to bring this book to an American readership as it holds such a vital message for us all, and very grateful to all involved who are helping to promote this crucial work.

The video documentary, produced jointly by Kwa-Zulu University Press and Brink Media, Int’l, will consist of an interview with the author by Stephen Coan, a noted journalist and critic, and a book and author discussion between Dr. Johan Steyn and local readers

Johan Steyn, a native South African, has worked and traveled widely across the African continent, and his detailed descriptions of the people, places, flora and fauna in the novel reflect his enduring love for his land. He is also a passionate aviator, mountaineer, nature photographer, artist and documentary filmmaker.

Schaffner Press, Inc. is an independent small press based in Tucson, Az., dedicated to publishing provocative and socially-conscious works of fiction and non-fiction, both reprints and originals. All titles are distributed for the trade by IPG: 312-337-0747 (www.ipgbook.com).