Ivan Vladislavić was born in Pretoria in 1957 and lives in Johannesburg. His books include the novels The Restless Supermarket, The Exploded View and Double Negative, and the story collections 101 Detectives and Flashback Hotel. In 2006, he published Portrait with Keys, a sequence of documentary texts on Johannesburg. He has edited books on architecture and art, and sometimes works with artists and photographers. TJ/Double Negative, a joint project with photographer David Goldblatt, received the 2011 Kraszna-Krausz Award for best photography book. His work has also won the Sunday Times Fiction Prize, the Alan Paton Award, the University of Johannesburg Prize and Yale University’s Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction. He is a Distinguished Professor in the Creative Writing Department at Wits University.
IF I WEREN’T A WRITER
If I weren’t a writer there would not be a toby jug full of pencil stubs on one end of my desk, produced by diligent use of a pencil extender cut from the bamboo thicket outside my study window; a printer’s dummy of a dictionary on the other end (J.L. van Schaik’s Afrikaanse Sinoniemwoordeboek, 608 paginas, 74 gsm Oyster opaque) stuffed with notes towards fictions I may or may not write; three yellow Post-its stuck to my monitor that read ‘“the travelling salesman approach to literature” – Margaret Drabble’, ‘title: The Floating Population’ and ‘tenosynovitis: nausea induced by bad poetry’; a copy of The Exploded View under the leg of the coffee table in my lounge; a pewter kohl-pot on the mantelpiece holding a speckled feather picked up on the shores of Lac Assal, ‘the deepest depression in Africa’; a photograph by Roger Palmer on my dining-room wall that appears to show Cape Dutch cottages in a landscape; a copy of the King’s English Dictionary (British Books Ltd, 1933) at arm’s length on my bookshelf – the Rev. C.A. Alington, former Head Master of Eton, begins his Introduction with these words: ‘There is a great deal to be said for the man who declared that, if he were condemned to limit his library to a single book, that book should be a dictionary’; a postcard propped against the King’s English Dictionary picturing the Wenningstedt beach-hall tilting on the edge of a cliff after the Sturmflut of 24 November 1928; an email in my inbox inviting me to participate in Le Marathon des Mots (better start training); a note in my diary that reads ‘Ask Thomas Brückner if my translations from Eich will do’; a column attributed to me in the Sunday Times that begins ‘If I weren’t a writer’; and so on.
Sunday Times, ‘If I weren’t a writer…’, 27 March 2010