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Thirteen Cents

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  207 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews

Every city has an unspoken side. Cape Town, between the postcard mountain and sea, has its own shadow-side lurking in its lap: a place of dislocation and uncertainty, dependence and desperation, destruction and survival, gangsters, pimps, pedophiles, hunger, hope and moments of happiness. This book therefore is an extraordinary and unsparing account of the coming of age on

Paperback, 164 pages
Published October 1st 2012 by New Africa Books (first published November 30th 2000)
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Second Chances Soulmate by Racheal LachmanThe Good Doctor by Damon GalgutThe Impostor by Damon GalgutThe Quiet Violence of Dreams by K. Sello DuikerThirteen Cents by K. Sello Duiker
South African fiction worth reading
5th out of 107 books — 7 voters
Things Fall Apart by Chinua AchebeHalf of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichiePurple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieSo Long a Letter by Mariama BâDisgrace by J.M. Coetzee
African Fiction
215th out of 425 books — 266 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 581)
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Penny de Vries
Jul 14, 2015 Penny de Vries rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sa-fiction
Thirteen Cents is a shock to the system; a punch to the solar plexus; a very grim read but brilliantly executed. It is written from the perspective of a homeless, twelve year old boy Azure, pronounced Ah-zoo-ray, as he tells us, who has to think of himself as a man. It is set in a Cape Town that is very different from the one many readers know. This book was published in 2000 and I have been asking myself why I have not read it before, especially as it is highly acclaimed and I knew this. After ...more
Lee Abrahams
Nov 07, 2012 Lee Abrahams rated it it was amazing
The book delves into the real world of the "Cape Town" city. There is a look at how a street child has to survive, also how gangsters are initiated and formed. In addition, a family-hood in the gangster world and their philosophy or their take on Cape Town. Their philosophy is strange, but has merit, when considering their circumstance. They live in an imbalanced society and want to have things aswell, one character Sealy, refers to banks, church's, town or high society as the greater evil as th ...more
Alex Hoffman
Apr 25, 2015 Alex Hoffman rated it really liked it
This book was written in a way that made it very easy to read, despite it's content being so disturbing and depressing that you'd think it should be difficult to read. This is the story of a 12-year-old street child in Cape Town who survives by prostituting himself. It is a devastating an poignant tale about the corruption and manipulative practices of the adult world set in a place that I actually know very well. Perhaps because I know Cape Town and, in particular Sea Point (where most of the n ...more
Jan 04, 2015 Kerstin rated it really liked it
I thought it was good right until the end, where I feel that Duiker either lost control, or that I was simply not smart enough to work out exactly what occurred - metaphorically or otherwise.

Thankfully, I am not alone in my ignorance. My English lecturer also seemed somewhat mystified. As did the rest of the 3rd year English students. I think this is something of a failing, assuming the book had ethical/moral goals. If the reader is left nonplussed, I think they are also left unsure of how to ta
Jan 31, 2016 Anne-Marie rated it liked it
This book had me riveted until about half way through. Then it just lost the plot with the main character becoming all weird and seeing & thinking things that made absolutely no sense and he wasn't on drugs or anything. It was almost as if he was under some evil spell. The author depicts the life on the streets of Cape Town with absolute brilliance and honesty, but the last half of tge story spoiled it for me.
Feb 03, 2015 Tiah added it
- Pigeons, people, they are all the same. At the end of the day they are just rats. They'll take you out for a few crumbs of bread. -

- I start to feed off the light and begin to slowly forget my hunger. Grown-ups, this is how they teach me to be strong. I take in their light and destroy them with fire. -

- They are beautiful seagulls. They have white feathers that they look after and you never see a seagull that looks battered with dirty wings like some pigeons. Seagulls have pride, they always
Apr 02, 2016 Josie rated it liked it
Published in 2002 this won the Commonwealth Writer's Prize.
Set in Cape Town, this is a very grim look at an orphaned street child of 13 years old who attempts to survive in a gangster world that he should have no part of.
Although this book is depressingly disturbing, its an easy and quick read at its 164 pages, but is not one that doesn't leave a mark on you.
I enjoyed reading this, however the ending completely lost me. Was that a dream or did the book take a sci-fi / fantasy turn?...for the wor
Lisa Lazarus
Jan 13, 2016 Lisa Lazarus rated it liked it
This is the story of a 13 year old orphaned boy named Azure (or Blue) because of his unusual blue eyes, who lives on the streets in Cape Town - in Sea Point, and under the bridge construction that was never completed - all places I know well. His world, however, is one I do not know. He sells his body to men for money for food, he lives with gangsters and drug dealers; he has only one friend. It is a devastating portrayal of a young life; the more devastating because it is so close to home. It i ...more
Mar 17, 2014 0729530450 marked it as to-read
nothing yet because i have not yet read the book
Nov 18, 2010 Zandile rated it liked it
i enjoy reading the book even though sometimes i could not grasp to what the author was trying to communicate. i would not recommend this book to any sensitive reader becuase of its horrific nutare.some of the things Azu THE PROTAGONIST had to go through i felf were bit far-featched. on the other side i love what Sello Duiker was trying to do with this novel. His intentions were to show or expose the unspoken side of any city.with our ignorance we forget or we choose not to think about this othe ...more
Jan 04, 2015 Phumlani rated it really liked it
This is the second book by K Sello Duiker i read and like Quiet Violence Of Dreams, i find it quite disturbing and boundary pushing. I enjoyed it immensely and would not recommend it to any one who is sensitive.
The 13 year old character goes through a lot of hardship and pain, the scenes make you stop reading and digest what actually happens and leaves you feeling fortunate to be living the life you're living. A brilliant book written by a seemingly troubled soul.
Apr 12, 2014 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-lit
It's a tough book about a street kid in Capetown. The novel is very well done and combine elements of magical realism with what the reviewer (Villjoen) calls hyperrealism. I like the hyperrealist parts, but the whole thing also leaves a depressing taste of post-Apartheid Capetown.
Jun 04, 2014 Aly rated it it was ok
Not ashamed to admit that the last few chapters of this book confused me to no end. I did not know how to interpret what I assumed were symbolic meanings because I think I lacked a certain cultural/background knowledge. With that in mind, this is not a book that I enjoyed at.
Jun 08, 2015 Ironflower rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very hard read. Be prepared for the bitter truth about those that were forgotten..the children of post Apartheid South Africa. They witnessed a change that swept the country but victims of societal ills have left them behind.
Fred Daly
Jan 01, 2016 Fred Daly rated it really liked it
This is about a homeless boy in Cape Town. I liked the end, when he has a kind of mystical revelation, but I can't teach it -- a lot of the rest is graphic and brutal.
Dakotah Daffron
This book will break your heart, but Duiker's language throughout makes the book hard to put away. If you want an honest and unforgiving account of the post-apartheid societal landscape of Cape Town, South Africa in 2000.
Sep 08, 2014 Tessa rated it really liked it
If you think Cape Town is just its postcard beauty, read this. But it's not for the faint of heart.
Stephanie Breeden
Oct 19, 2015 Stephanie Breeden rated it it was amazing
While this book is very well written, subject matter makes it hard to get through some parts. It is a very heartbreaking novel.
Natalie Rae Denton
Oct 12, 2014 Natalie Rae Denton rated it really liked it
This book brilliantly depicts the other, ugly side of Cape Town. The many swear words and dirty acts shows just how bad the streets can be.
Mzoxolo Christopher
Jun 11, 2016 Mzoxolo Christopher rated it it was amazing
Absolutely riveting book! Brutally charged coming-of-age tale of a blue-eyed street kid hard living in the heart of 'Mother City'. Certainly not for the faith hearted!
The first 2/3 of the book is a page turner, keeps you sucked in at a high pace as the thirteen year old boy survives and tricks the streets of Cape Town. Then the author bewilderingly throws you off guard at the end, paintings a surreal mind frame of the boy- interchange of fact and fantasy into maturity. Almost a reflection of K.
May 09, 2014 Anne rated it it was ok
Both lyrical and violent. I would have given it 4 stars but the rape scenes disturbed me.
JM Schreiber
Sep 12, 2015 JM Schreiber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An unforgettable, brutal coming of age novel set on the mean side of the Cape Town streets. Powerful and inspiring work from a writer gone far too soon. For full review see
Sep 09, 2015 Jane is currently reading it
Apr 17, 2016 Claudia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
I'll admit that it gets really weird towards the end- if you read on the surface. There's a ton of symbolism and metaphors thrown at the reader at the end of it, but I like it; it read a bit easy in the beginning.
This really isn't for the easily upset. Told from the perspective of a twelve/thirteen-year-old street kid, everything he encounters is put before you in its rawest form. Some of the experiences recounted by the narrator, Azure, are absolute horrors.
Audrey Van zee
Aug 29, 2014 Audrey Van zee rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Despite the graphic sexual scenes and magical realism at the end, Azure's story was interesting to read while staying in the same area of Cape Town that his fictional life is set in. Thirteen cents gives a vivid view of what it is like to be a homeless child in one of the most unequal cities in the world.
Jul 13, 2013 Emmkay rated it really liked it
Brief, dark story about a 12 year old orphan living on the streets of Cape Town. I didn't 'like' reading it; it was unremittingly bleak and painfully graphic in its descriptions of the beatings and sexual exploitation that Azure experiences. I also had a hard time following the Afrikaans interspersed throughout the dialogue, or understanding some of the dream sequences. I do know I'll remember it, however.
Wouter Pocornie
Jan 03, 2014 Wouter Pocornie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-novels
Short, nonetheless very heavy to read. A young boy's 'minimal' (my understanding of 'thirteen cents as a metaphor) existence in South Africa.

K. Sello Duiker has written interesting books. Sadly, he's no longer alive.
Fatima Essack
Jan 19, 2014 Fatima Essack rated it did not like it
It's no wonder the author killed himself.
Polly Mary
Apr 08, 2014 Polly Mary marked it as to-read
I think the book is about a small boy who does not have money
Soulja Abdul
Jul 31, 2013 Soulja Abdul rated it did not like it
Overrated and boring piece of work. The last half is all self indulgence by the author. Terrible.


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conclusion of this book 4 13 May 06, 2013 04:57AM  
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Kabelo 'Sello' Duiker's debut novel, Thirteen Cents won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book, Africa Region.

He suffered a nervous breakdown in 2004, prior to committing suicide by hanging himself in January 2005.
More about K. Sello Duiker...

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