- Title – Thirteen Cents
- Author – Sello K Duiker
- Genre – Crime fiction
- Publisher – Kwela Books 978-0-8214-2039-2
- Accolades: Winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize, Best First Book in 2001
About the book
Thirteen Cents is the debut novel by local author K. Sello Duiker.
It was published in 2000 to critical acclaim and immediate success in South Africa and abroad, winning the 2001 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book, Africa. The story is narrated in the post-apartheid South African era and depicts the brutal reality of street children.
“Grow up. Fast. Very fast. Lightening speed. Everything is always like that. Quick. You must act quickly. Understand quickly. Otherwise someone will fuck you up nicely. They’ll beat you up so that you must always remember.”Except from the book
Azure is a 12-year-old boy who is about to turn 13.
He struggles with issues of identity and belonging. After the murder of his parents he moved to Cape Town and started living on the streets. He sleeps near a swimming pool in Sea Point and later he moves to sleep under a bridge with hardcore criminals and junkies.
Life on the streets isn’t easy so he makes his money from picking up tricks and prostituting himself to married men who are in denial about their sexualities.
The streets have hardened him so he thinks of himself as a man rather than a teenager.
On the streets he gave himself the responsibility of looking after a boy named Bafana. He doesn’t agree with the choices that Bafana makes on the streets. He often gives him a tongue lashing for being on drugs. Unlike many street kids Azure hates drugs he only smokes Marijuana which he refers to as Zol.
Even though he has a soft spot for the 9-year-old Bafana he doesn’t want to get too attached to him. The brutality and trauma he experiences on the streets leads him to physically and mentally escape up in Table Mountain. While at the mountain through the supernatural he seeks to avenge himself. he spends a several nights on the mountain where he has dreams and visions.
Thirteen Cents is an emotionally taxing book. An unhappy ending. The book ends but the toxic conditions that street kids live in don’t. If you enjoy this read you’re most likely to enjoy Ben Okri’s, The Famished Road.