Gillian Slovo

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Gillian Slovo
Occupationnovelist, playwright
NationalitySouth Africa
ParentsJoe Slovo, Ruth First
RelativesShawn Slovo, Robyn Slovo (siblings)

Gillian Slovo (born 15 March 1952, in Johannesburg[1]) is a South African novelist, playwright and memoirist. She has lived in London since 1964, when her family went into exile there from South Africa.[1] 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.[1] Slovo's family is Jewish.[2]


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.[3]

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 against the killing of journalists in that country, alongside presidents of other PEN Centres and internationally prominent writers.[4]

Political views[edit]

In December 2019, along with 42 other leading cultural figures, Slovo signed a letter endorsing the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership in the 2019 general election. The letter stated that "Labour's election manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership offers a transformative plan that prioritises the needs of people and the planet over private profit and the vested interests of a few."[5][6]

Awards and honours[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Gillian Slovo Biography -". eNotes. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  2. ^ "Jews in the News:Sarah Michelle Gellar, Julianne Margulies and Jake Gyllenh | Tampa Jewish Federation". Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  3. ^ "Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom". Timeline Theatre. Archived from the original on 30 May 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  4. ^ Slovo, Gillian (3 February 2012), "'In Mexico, Reporters are Hunted Like Rabbits'", Author Author, The Guardian.
  5. ^ "Vote for hope and a decent future". The Guardian. 3 December 2019. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  6. ^ Proctor, Kate (3 December 2019). "Coogan and Klein lead cultural figures backing Corbyn and Labour". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  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]

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