Double Negative

Ivan Vladislavić | Thomas Brückner

Ivan Vladislavić: Double Negative
Translated from the English by Thomas Brückner | Double Negative
A1 Verlag 2015 | Umuzi 2010

“In the multiple reflections of his novel Double Negative, the South African essayist and writer Ivan Vladislavić succeeds in combining major themes from the history of civilization (racial segregation in his home country) with moral and aesthetic issues (what is the truth of photography) to create a profound narrative of the period during and after Apartheid. Following the first free elections, the narrator - himself now a photographer – returns from London to observe the transformations. What has really changed? Ivan Vladislavić stages his story without the slightest use of kitsch or sentimentality, which elevates the book into a literary masterpiece, something further accentuated by the excellent translation by Thomas Brückner.”
(The jury on the shortlist nomination 2016)

Double Negative

Double Negative

The young college dropout Neville Lister accompanies the famous photographer Saul Auerbach for a day in Johannesburg in search of life lessons. They play a game: On a hill overlooking the city they select three houses and decide to knock on their doors in search of a picture and a story. However, the light quickly fades and only Auerbach’s pictures from the first two houses, which would later become classic portraits, are completed. Only after an interlude of many years does Lister visit the third house as he returns to post-apartheid South Africa and a completely altered Johannesburg. The novel, arranged like a triptych, depicts 30 years of South African history in precise images and sentences, arranged like a series of photographs that trace the changes in the social structures.

Ivan Vladislavić | © Sophie Bassouls

Ivan Vladislavić | © Sophie Bassouls

About the author

Ivan Vladislavić, born in Pretoria in 1957, studied Afrikaans and English literature at the Witwatersrand University and has lived in Johannesburg since the beginning of the 1970s where he works as a freelance editor and writer. In the 1980s he worked as an editor for the oppositional publishers Ravan Press. The South African with Croatian roots was co-publisher of the Staffrider Magazine and together with Andries Oliphant he published the anthology Ten years of Staffrider. He is the author of novels, essays and short stories, has published works on contemporary art and architecture and written texts for the photography books of David Goldblatt and Roger Palmer.

Recent publications in German translation:

  • Johannesburg. Insel aus Zufall, translated from the English by Thomas Brückner; A1 Verlag 2008 (Portrait with Keys. Joburg and What-What; Umuzi, Kapstadt 2006)

Recent publication in English:

  • 101 Detectives; Umuzi, Kapstadt 2015
  • The Exploded View; Umuzi, Kapstadt 2004

Thomas Brückner | © privat

Thomas Brückner | © privat

About the translator

Dr. Thomas Brückner, born in Görlitz in 1957, studied African studies, literature and cultural sciences. He completed his doctorate and habilitated at the University of Leipzig, which was followed by guest professorships in Germany and Sweden. Since 1994, he has worked as an author, publisher, translator, cultural mediator, speaker and moderator, primarily in the field of the literature and culture of the countries of the south. Amongst other things, Brückner has been a longstanding jury member of the LiBeraturpreis initiative.

Recent translations:

  • Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o: Im Haus des Hüters. Jugendjahre; A1 Verlag, München 2013 (In the House of the Interpreter. A Memoir; Pantheon Books, New York 2012)
  • Helon Habila: Öl auf Wasser; Verlag Das Wunderhorn 2012 (Oil on Water: A Novel; W.W.Norton & Company, New York 2011)
  • Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o: Herr der Krähen; A1 Verlag, München 2011 (Wizard of the Crow; Harvill Secker, London 2006)
  • Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o: Träume in Zeiten des Krieges. Eine Kindheit; A1 Verlag, München 2010 (Dreams in a Time of War. A Childhood Memoir; Pantheon Books, New York 2010)
  • Ivan Vladislavić: Johannesburg. Insel aus Zufall (Metropolen, Band 19); A1 Verlag 2008 (Portrait with Keys. Joburg and What-What; Umuzi, Kapstadt 2006)