The Near North is a vivid account of life in Johannesburg in times of crisis. From the stony ridges of Langermann Kop in Kensington to the tree-lined avenues of Houghton, we follow the writer through the city’s streets, meeting its ghosts and journeying through time and (often circumscribed) space, finding meaning in the everyday and incidental.
            At once an echo of Ivan Vladislavić’s award-winning Portrait with Keys and an original work of intense acuity and quiet power, The Near North is both intimate and expansive, ranging from small domestic dramas to great public spectacles. Wryly playful at times, fiercely serious at others, it is certain to move and delight all who accompany the writer through its pages.

The Near North new book.coverThe Near North
Picador Africa, 2024
ISBN 978-1-77010-902-5
e-ISBN 978-1-77010-903-2
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When Minky and I moved from a house to a flat, we brought with us a large library of books and a small depository of seeds. Amateur gardeners usually plant nursery seedlings, which have a good chance of survival, but Minky prefers seeds, she likes to grow things from the ground up. The seeds from our Blenheim Street garden were in packets from Kirchhoffs, Mayford and Garden Master, the leftovers of earlier seasons, as you could tell by the torn-off corners sealed with masking tape: tomatoes, Italian parsley, lemon thyme, sorrel, rocket, and then lobelia, dianthus, impatiens, verbena, cornflowers and wildflower mixes. In our new home, we were entitled to claim space in the communal garden, but we wanted plants close by, where they could be tended and enjoyed more easily. Some established pot plants had moved with us and so we put those on the balcony, along with a few planters filled for the moment with quick-growing nursery seedlings. The seed packets stood in rows on a shelf in the hardware cupboard, flowers, vegetables and herbs together. The seasons came and went.
            In one of those summers, my mother died. Afterwards my sister and I had to go through her possessions, sorting her clothes, handbags and shoes, her collection of clip-on earrings kept in a drawer of the dressing table, the matching strings of beads clustered on the uprights of the mirror, setting a few things aside as mementos and bagging the rest for the charity shops. On the windowsill I found a yellowed envelope with Seeds written on it in her hand. Before I sawed the envelope open with a key, I knew what it contained. Hollyhock seeds. Tipped into my palm they made a drift of flakes like rolled oats. My mother was not much of a gardener but all her life she liked to grow hollyhocks.

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