The First Law of Sadness

Short fiction
Publisher: David Philip Publishers (Cape Town)

  • Winner: 2018 Nadine Gordimer Award

Connected by more than their exquisite prose, Nick Mulgrew’s new stories delve into a world of killer eagles, tattoo removal parlours, hardcore punk guitarists-cum-auditors, turtle sanctuaries, plane crashes, amateur pornographers and biltong-makers – a world concurrently too strange and too familiar for comfort.

A collection of startling imagination and sympathy – set primarily in South Africa’s least fashionable cities and suburbs – these stories maintain a precarious balance between rich comedy and despair throughout their explorations of grief, spectacle, sex, nostalgia, and the lives of animals, both human and not.

With audaciousness met by trademark spiritual undercurrents and poetic flourish, The First Law of Sadness is confirmation of Mulgrew’s status as one of South Africa’s best contemporary exponents of short fiction.


"Mulgrew is easily the best thing we've got." ★★★★★ – Sunday Times

"A book full of the possible becoming probable, of the mundane made massive, of leviathans glimpsed out of the corner of an eye." – Mail & Guardian


Short fiction
Publisher: David Philip Publishers (Cape Town)

  • Longlisted for 2017 Edge Hill Prize

  • Contains stories that were: winner of 2016 Thomas Pringle Prize; winner of 2014 National Arts Festival Short Sharp Stories Award; shortlisted for the 2015 White Review Prize.

Slouching toward purgatory.

In fourteen rich and entangled stories, Nick Mulgrew’s debut work of fiction explores the sorrows and absurdities of youth, spirituality and prejudice in the verdant and history-stained settlements of South Africa’s coastline. 

From drunken broken-family vacations to a postman’s jaunt into the weird world of the ultra-rich; from a housewife's visit to a library for the blind to a haunting descent into a colonial Purgatory, these stories exhibit a magpie’s eye for the smallest of tragedies and grandest of ironies. Set on the stage of the everyday, Stations conjures not just a vision of a South Africa that implodes and resurrects itself as it wishes, but also of the people caught in its wake, their lives tottering desperately between happiness and eternal futility.


"It’s difficult to believe that this is only Nick Mulgrew’s debut collection of stories. Stations reads like the work of a seasoned writer. Here is someone with acuity and a perfectly pitched voice." – Cape Times

“Direct and current […] unforgettable.” – Mail & Guardian

“Affecting, high-concept, delivers various bangs for your buck.” – Sunday Times

“You can open […] Stations at any page, choose a paragraph, and within seconds find yourself drawn into his world of considerate, complex and sincere characters. […] He weaves through everyday moments of South African life, leaving you feeling blind for not having noticed them before.” – City Press

the myth of this is that we're all in this together

Publisher: uHlanga Press (Cape Town)

Equal parts flippant and plaintive, Nick Mulgrew’s first collection of poems, the myth of this is that we’re all in this together, is a three-part meditation on the ways in which people lose trust in each other, their communities, and themselves. Experimentally laced with monologue, anecdote and truism, these 32 self-aware, diary-esque poems languish in the small sadnesses and frayings of a terminally uncertain society in a socially-mediated age.


"Excellent. [Mulgrew] is distinguished by his concern with the musicality of language [and] the echoing in looser structures of more formal verse. [A] writer who capably handles a wide range of tones, styles and techniques." – Stanzas

"A quieter voice [...] sometimes a little world-weary, always conscious of the gap between speaking and being heard [...] Mulgrew has a fine ear for the different registers of language that express whole worlds of feeling." – Chimurenga Chronic

"Quirky and playful. [A] wry satire at the expense of contemporary culture." – City Press

Water: New Short Fiction from Africa

Edited short fiction (with Karina Szczurek)
Publisher: Short Story Day Africa (Cape Town) / New Internationalist (London)

The tidemark of African fiction. A deluge of new work from 21 writers from 14 countries, Short Story Day Africa's 2015 anthology, Water, captures the exciting new ebbs and flows of short fiction from the continent.

Featuring Efemia Chela, Fred Khumalo, Pede Hollist, Megan Ross, Thabo Jijana and more!


"The quality of this collection is of the highest level and in a world that is somewhat starved for African fiction, this serves to highlight that it is not because there is none." – Financial Mail

"Superb." – Sunday Times