Ivan Vladislavić [ South Africa, Germany ]
Ivan Vladislavić was born in Pretoria in 1957. Since the early seventies, he has lived in Johannesburg, where he studied Afrikaans and English language and literature at the University of the Witwatersrand. He worked as an editor at the oppositional publisher Ravan Press and for several years was assistant editor of the influential literary and cultural magazine »Staffrider«.
Vladislavić has been a freelance writer and editor since 1989. He is regarded as an excellent stylist and original voice in South African literature. Themes from art and architecture are central to his work. He uses them to subtly describe social developments, particularly in the post-Apartheid era in his post-modern stories and novels as well as in his work as essayist and editor. Vladislavić’s first novel, »The Folly« (1993), tells of a mysterious building project. While the neighbouring family follows the bizarre goings-on on previously fallow land, their well-ordered life begins to come apart at the seams. The city of Johannesburg may be considered to be the main character in his last three narrative works. »The Restless Supermarket« (2001) tells of changes in the white suburb of Hillbrow, as more and more blacks move in. The four stories in »The Exploded View« (2004) trace the relationships between individuals and the places in which they live. »Portrait with Keys« (2006) most recently interweaves autobiography and fiction in 138 episodes and notes. In the title piece, the narrator explains the functions of the numerous keys on his key ring to an astonished Swedish journalist, casting light on security in the city. The episode to which the German title refers, »Johannesburg, Island of Coincidence«, describes the city as being like an island in terms of its geography and layout. Vladislavić then over-extends the metaphor (which he self-reflexively comments on in the book) in order to introduce a playful set of themes about the city's lack of water. »Johannesburg is justly renowned for its scenic waterways …« Through precise observation and quiet humour, a remarkable chronology of the post-Apartheid years emerges that has no need to use the platitudes which the author instead puts in the mouth of a ranting beggar: »Crime wave. rainbow nation. Decent South Africans. standing together. People of God. thieves. liars. love. I start edging away from the kerb, cranking the steering wheel with my left hand and winding up the window with my right.«
Vladislavić has been distinguished with the most significant South African awards, including the Olive Schreiner Prize, the CNA Literary Award, the Sunday Times Literary Award and the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award. He was a grant holder at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart and the foundation kunst:raum sylt quelle. His most recent work was published in the essay collection »William Kentridge: Tapestries« (2008).
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