Ivan Vladislavic is a South African writer and book editor. A few years ago at a literary festival in South Africa, I was asked to stand in for him on a panel. The reason he could not make it was that he had returned from Europe to find his house-sitter murdered in his house in Johannesburg. I only offer this information because I think it is telling. Almost everybody in Johannesburg has friends or relatives who have been hijacked or robbed or killed. Nadine Gordimer endured being robbed and locked up in her own house.
It is against this background that Vladislavic works. His earlier, wonderful book, The Keys of the City, is an extraordinary and subtle work. One of its strands, both macabre and funny, involves a burglar who is chased by police into Johannesburg’s zoo, where the burglar jumps into the gorilla enclosure;