Awards for top writers

Tsotsi opened his eyes and listened to the knocking on his door.

Tsotsi opened his eyes and listened to the knocking on his door.

Instinctively, but for no other reason than having awoken, he put his hand under his pillow to find his knife.

Before he found it, another thought crossed his mind and he sat up on his elbows and looked down at the foot of the bed. The baby was still there, and apparently asleep.

The knocking had stopped, but now came again. Tsotsi shook his head.

He must have fallen asleep; some time in the night his tiredness must have caught up with him and he had fallen asleep.

No, it was in the morning. He remembered going out once to piss and hearing cocks crowing and noticing that the sky was pale.

How long had he slept? He looked at the window and listened. Bright light and casual noise. Early morning.

The knocking started again. Who was that? Suddenly he thought about the woman, the one he had got to feed the baby. Why her?

Why would she come back? Tsotsi shook his head again. Things were happening and thoughts were coming too fast for him.

He felt for his knife, but it did exactly the opposite of what it was meant to do. Instead of pacifying him, it started a separate, new sequence of thoughts.

He remembered the river again, the gangs, then his mother, then Petah ... the person outside knocked again.

"Who are you?" Tsotsi called out. The woman, could it be the woman. Why the woman? Silence. No one answering. A motor car cruised past in the street. Vague voices somewhere.

"Who is there?

He was halfway to the door when Die Aap answered.

"Tsotsi is that you?"

Tsotsi stopped and listened.

"This is me," Die Aap added.

Jesus, what now. What the hell now. Things were happening too fast.

"What do you want?" No answer.

"Die Aap?"

"It's me. Ja. Die Aapman. Hey?"

Tsotsi gently put his baby under the bed before opening the door.

l This is an excerpt from Athol Fugard's, pictured, novel Tsotsi.

Gavin Wood adapted it for film in 2005. It won an Oscar award in 2006.

Fugard's work includes Master Harold and the Boys, Nongogo, Sizwe Banzi is Dead, The Island, Exists and Entrances and The Road To Mecca.

In 2007 Fugard received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the yearly South African Literary Awards (Sala), a nation-building literary heritage preservation project of Sowetan, Nutrend Publishers, the SABC, the Arts and Culture Department and wRite Associates.

Fugard is one of 43 previous winners of Sala over three years from 2005, whose literary work samples are featured in a special collection known as Band of Troubadours.

Winners will be known next month. The categories include the Nadine Gordimer Short Story Awards in South African Languages, K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Awards for Young Writers, Literal Lifetime Achievements Awards, Best Radio and Television Short Story Awards, Sowetan Literary Journalism Award and Literary Posthumous Awards