‘The writer Ivan Vladislavić (born 1957) has been largely unknown outside South Africa, though just recently that picture has begun to change. Vladislavić is a writer of great sophistication who specializes in short fiction (“stories”).’
Ivan Vladislavić is the author of several collections of stories and acclaimed novels including Double Negative (And Other Stories, 2013), The Restless Supermarket (And Other Stories, 2014), 101 Detectives (And Other Stories, 2015) and The Folly (And Other Stories, 2015). Vladislavić has written extensively about Johannesburg, where he lives. Portrait with Keys (Portobello Books, 2006) is a sequence of documentary texts about the city. His work has won many awards, including the South African Sunday Times Fiction Prize, the Alan Paton Award for non-fiction and Yale University’s Windham-Campbell Prize. He is a Distinguished Professor in Creative Writing at the University of the Witwatersrand.
‘Vladislavić’s narrative intelligence [is] nowhere more visible than in his way with language itself. Each section is perfectly judged; we enter incidents in medias res – as though they were piano études – and exit them before we have overstayed our welcome.’
‘Vladislavić is sensitively attuned to the uncanny phenomena that explode from the social fault lines of his city.’
Times Literary Supplement
‘Well received in his homeland, this publication marks the long-overdue arrival of one of South Africa’s most finely tuned observers.’
‘This book coheres resplendently by its metaphorical underpinnings, by something rare in the world of contemporary fiction: meaning … Double Negative listens carefully to the sound of the ebb and flow of history and transcribes it in lucid, rigorous prose; Vladislavić is no minor congener of Sebald.’
‘A tone of bemused artistic entrapment in random patterns permeates this wonderfully soft-spoken novel, which reminds me very much of the work of J. M. Coetzee, W. G. Sebald and P. Auster. Double Negative even feels slightly fresher than the recent publications from these three giants of quirky flat-voiced first-person narrative postmodernism.'
‘Vladislavič invests the subject with profound depth and inventiveness by focusing on a character who is resistant to history and is already petrifying in the tumultuous tides of his times. The novel is also a masterpiece of voice, one that fits Tearle with miraculous perfection: pedantic; uptight; sneeringly undemocratic; periphrastic, sometimes; punning; sustainedly, outrageously witty. It is the wit of the cryptic crossword; of a wizard of words whose only deity is the OED. You will feel giddy reading this riot of a book, until you fall into the grip of sadness and pity at the end for, while elevating the effect of bathos to high art, Vladislavič has also deftly woven in pathos … this novel is Vladislavič’s Pale Fire. A work of such immense imaginativeness, of such extraordinarily serious playfulness, comes along very rarely. Let us celebrate it.’
‘From the collapse of the Berlin Wall to the release of Nelson Mandela, Vladislavic creates several funny moments that rely on recent history as a backdrop . . . Vladislavic’s sly prose forces us to recognize our own obsessions with language and class.’
‘[A] book that feeds some of the most complex and crucial years of South African history through an outdated word processor, an entirely unsuitable narrator who clings to the sanctuary of the Café Europa … Behind a narrative patter that is by turns witty, sardonic and sad, we see Tearle bungle a love affair, estrange old friends and fail epically to understand the changing society that he is a reluctant part of … the result [is] a novel widely regarded as one of the major books of South Africa’s transition.’
‘Known for “juxtaposing the banal and the bizarre,” Vladislavić’s work provides fascinating glimpses into post-apartheid South Africa as well as “dystopian parallel universes"'
‘I see the book as a playful-sinister examination of the potentially dangerous false realities of literature, and even of language itself. In a way it is an enactment of its own folly – as we are warned in the title . . . It sounds odd, I know, but it gives you the feeling that the very book you are holding is alive in a dangerous and unsettling way, with its own consciousness and self-awareness.’
‘Vladislavić is a weaver of spells, and I read his book at once captivated and cautious as to how it would cap off its vaunting fantasy . . . a satire on – and a love letter to – human gullibility, and, as such, quite strange, and as special as it is strange.’
‘This 1993 debut from the gifted South African of Croatian descent is more Pinter than Kafka and a zany variation on Coetzee’s Age of Iron . . . outrageously deadpan funny, stylish and prophetic.’
‘In a country obsessed with social realism, Vladislavić has always tried to find less obvious ways to approach the world. An immaculately-written allegory or parable (though neither word is quite right) about two unlikely neighbours, it’s a clever and elegant book that lodges in the mind like a dart.’
‘A parable about land, ownership and power? A fable about the imagined other? An allegory of contestation and co-existence, or of the building (and dismantling) of systems? Occupying a tantalizingly unnameable region between fable, allegory and parable, Ivan Vladislavić’s first novel announces a powerfully original imagination, expressed in unparalleled stylistic precision and brilliance. Nothing short of a great contemporary writer, he pushes at form and content to make something strangely new and profound of the novel.’