Portrait with Keys by Ivan Vladislavic
The City of Johannesburg Unlocked

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Synopsis

“Surely one of the most ingenious love letters—full of violence, fear, humour, and cunning—ever addressed to a city.” —Geoff Dyer

This dazzling portrait of Johannesburg is one of the most haunting, poetic pieces of reportage about a metropolis since Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City. Through precisely crafted snapshots, Ivan Vladislavic observes the unpredictable, day-today transformation of his embattled city: the homeless using manholes as cupboards, a public statue slowly cannibalized for scrap. Most poignantly he charts the small, devastating changes along the postapartheid streets: walls grow higher, neighborhoods are gated off, the keys multiply. Security—insecurity?—is the growth industry. Vladislavic, described as “one of the most imaginative minds at work in South African literature today” (André Brink), delivers “one of the best things ever written about a great, if schizophrenic, city, and an utterly true picture of the new South Africa” (Christopher Hope).

 

About Ivan Vladislavic

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Born in Pretoria in 1957, Ivan Vladislavic has published five works of fiction. Portrait with Keys was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize and won the Alan Paton, South Africa's major nonfiction award. He lives in Johannesburg.
 
Published May 10, 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company. 209 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Portrait with Keys

The Guardian

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Portrait With Keys: The City of Johannesburg Unlockedby Ivan Vladislavic199pp, Portobello, £12.99.

Nov 17 2006 | Read Full Review of Portrait with Keys: The City ...

Book Forum

This passage closes with the line “When I lick my finger to turn the page it tastes of orange juice.” Vladislavic’s reserve is part of the point, as it foregrounds the city and makes way for his featured technical accomplishment: an index of itineraries, organized by subject, that allow the rea...

Jun 09 2009 | Read Full Review of Portrait with Keys: The City ...

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