Gillian Slovo

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Gillian Slovo (born 15 March 1952, in Johannesburg[1]) is a South African-born novelist, playwright and memoirist. She has lived in London since 1964, when her family went into exile there from South Africa.[2] She was a recipient of the Golden PEN Award.


Slovo attended the University of Manchester, graduating in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in the history and philosophy of science, before working as a journalist and television producer.[3] Slovo's family is Jewish.[4]

Slovo's novels were at first predominantly of the crime and thriller genres, including a series featuring the detective Kate Baeier, but she has since written more literary fiction. Her 2000 work Red Dust, a courtroom drama that explores the meanings and effects of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was made into a film of the same name released in 2004, directed by Tom Hooper and starring Hilary Swank, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jamie Bartlett. Slovo's 2004 work Ice Road was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. The novel incorporates real events (the death of Sergey Kirov) with a fictionalised rendering of life during the Siege of Leningrad.

Slovo's 1997 memoir, Every Secret Thing: My Family, My Country, is an account of her childhood in South Africa and her relationship with her parents Joe Slovo and Ruth First — both famous South African Communist Party leaders and major figures in the anti-apartheid struggle who lived perilous lives of exile, armed resistance, and occasional imprisonment, which culminated in her mother's assassination by South African forces in 1982. A family memoir in the form of a feature film, A World Apart (1988), was written by her sister Shawn Slovo and starred Barbara Hershey. With Victoria Brittain, Slovo compiled the play Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom, which was put on in theatres internationally.[5]

She has one daughter, Cassie.

English PEN Presidency[edit]

Slovo was the 25th president of the English Centre of International PEN, the worldwide writers fellowship. In 2012 she took part in a PEN International delegation to Mexico to protest the killing of journalists in that country, alongside presidents of other PEN Centres and internationally prominent writers.[6]

Awards and honours[edit]



  • Morbid Symptoms (1984)
  • Death by Analysis (1986)
  • Death Comes Staccato (1987)
  • Ties of Blood (1989)
  • The Betrayal (1991)
  • Looking for Thelma (1991)
  • Façade (1993)
  • Catnap (1994)
  • Close Call (1995)
  • Red Dust (2000)
  • Ice Road (2004)
  • Black Orchids (2008)
  • An Honourable Man (2012)
  • Ten Days (2016)



  • Every Secret Thing: My Family, My Country (1997)
  • Merhaba Sinem (2014)


  1. ^ Gillian Slovo Biography,
  2. ^ Gillian Slovo Biography,
  3. ^ Gillian Slovo Biography,
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom". Timeline Theatre. Archived from the original on 30 May 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  6. ^ Slovo, Gillian (3 February 2012), "'In Mexico, Reporters are Hunted Like Rabbits'", Author Author, The Guardian.
  7. ^ Brace, Marianne (12 June 2004). "Andrea Levy: Notes from a small island". The Independent. London. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  8. ^ Ezard, John (6 January 2005). "Whitbread novel prize is double for Levy". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 June 2007.
  9. ^ Bury, Liz (3 December 2013). "Gillian Slovo wins Golden PEN award". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 May 2014.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]