Lost and Found in Johannesburg | Granta

  • Published: 05/02/2015
  • ISBN: 9781783780990
  • 129x20mm
  • 368 pages

Lost and Found in Johannesburg

Mark Gevisser

As a boy growing up in 1970s Johannesburg Mark Gevisser would play ‘Dispatcher’, a game that involved sitting in his father’s parked car (or in the study) and sending imaginary couriers on routes across the city, mapped out from Holmden’s Register of Johannesburg. As the imaginary fleet made its way across the troubled city and its tightly bound geographies, so too did the young dispatcher begin to figure out his own place in the world.

At the centre of Lost and Found in Johannesburg is the account of a young boy who is obsessed with maps and books, and other boys. Mark Gevisser’s account of growing up as the gay son of Jewish immigrants, in a society deeply affected – on a daily basis – by apartheid and its legacy, provides a uniquely layered understanding of place and history. It explores a young man’s maturation into a fully engaged and self-aware citizen, first of his city, then of his country and the world beyond. This is a story of memory, identity and an intensely personal relationship with the City of Gold. It is also the story of a violent home invasion and its aftermath, and of a man’s determination to reclaim his home town.

[Gevisser's] prose style is so fluid, so easy, the reader feels as though he has been taken by the hand and is being gently led down a path by a guide who can be trusted to point out interesting landmarks... A humane and enlightened observer, capturing both an extraordinary chapter of history and the essence of a turbulent, shifting society via the examination of his own life

Michela Wrong, Spectator

Part memoir, part psycho-geography, his book is concerned with life as it's lived in these liminal spaces, which in Gevisser's fine handling, take on both physical and symbolic dimensions... A loving portrait of the city

Emma Brockes, Guardian

[Its] aesthetic of abundance and openness is powerful... [It] joins a range of experiments in non-fiction from South Africa that are by turns compelling and troubling, generous and chaotic... Brilliant [and] absorbing

Hedley Twidle, New Statesman

The Author

Mark Gevisser is the author of A Legacy of Liberation: Thabo Mbeki and the Future of the South African Dream, published by Palgrave Macmillan in the UK, and by Jonathan Ball in South Africa under the title, Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred. It was the winner of the Sunday Times 2008 Alan Paton Prize and was lauded by the Times Literary Supplement as ‘probably the finest piece of non-fiction to come out of South Africa since the end of apartheid’. Mark is also a heritage curator and a political analyst. His journalism has appeared in publications and journals including Granta, the New York Times, Vogue, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Foreign Affairs, Public Culture, Foreign Affairs and Art in America. He currently writes most regularly for the Guardian in the UK and the Mail & Guardian and the Sunday Times in South Africa. He lives in Cape Town.

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Mark Gevisser and Jonny Steinberg discuss recent South African history, their personal relationship to Johannesburg, and their personal relationship to a divided city.

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Mark Gevisser

‘The city was also a place of possibility and even, paradoxically, liberation.’