The Distance


Published: 9/15/2020



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Book Description

In his youth in 1970s suburban Pretoria, Joe falls in love with Muhammad Ali. He diligently scrapbooks newspaper clippings of his his hero, recording the showman’s words and taking in his inimitable brand of resistance. Forty years later, digging out his yellowed archive of Ali clippings and comic books, Joe sets out to write a memoir of his childhood. Calling upon his brother Branko for help, their two voices interweave to unearth a shared past. Reconstructing a world of bioscopes, Formica tabletops, Ovaltine, and drop-offs in their father’s Ford Zephyr, conjuring the textures of childhood, what emerges is a collision of memories, patching the gulf between past and present. Meaning arises in the gaps between fact and imagination, and words themselves become markers of the past and the turbulent present. In this formally inventive, fragmented novel, Vladislavić evokes the beauty, and the strangeness, of remembering and forgetting, and explores what it means to be at odds with one’s surroundings.

South African novelist Vladislavić delivers a moving, closely observed study in family dynamics in a time of apartheid...Vladislavić's tale unfolds with grace and precision. A memorable, beautifully written story of love and loss.
Kirkus, Starred Review

Violence meets quiet, action edges toward observation, and personality gives way to place. But where The Distance, like Portrait with Keys before it, asks that the reader build links across and between planes of memory, history, and city, the virtual world with which the book’s past collides is discomfitingly edgeless. Vladislavic is an auteur of this moment of collision. Always hovering just askew of the city he loves, his is a voice for making new spaces within it.
Jeanne-Marie Jackson, Africa Is a Country

Ivan’s sentences are like no one else’s; how does he manage to do it? They rise in the air like balloons and never seem to come down. One reads them looking up.
Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

A beautifully, thoughtfully crafted novel ... [The Distance] seeks to engage the reader — subtly, but in astonishingly many different ways, on questions about everything from race to how one can present narratives, from capturing a boxing match to attempts at autobiography to the films Branko's son is experimenting with. Vladislavić again shows himself to be an exceptional writer — and this, as perhaps his most readily accessible work (though in fact it is many layers deep), is a good introduction to his work.
Complete Review

His stylistic virtuosity, sardonic wit, playful inventiveness and his cool intimations of menace transmute the banal into something rich and strange loaded with comic and philosophical significance.
Mail & Guardian

Boxing is just one example of the kinds of opposing forces that Vladislavić explores with wit and sensitivity in this book: fact versus fiction, boyhood versus adulthood, masculinity versus machismo, apartheid versus freedom, and, most potently, brother versus brother.
Mark Athitakis, On the Seawall

This bittersweet story of hero worship and political awakening has a pole-axing sting in the tail. It focuses on two brothers, Joe and Branko, growing up white in Seventies South Africa... We cut between the two men in name-tagged segments that mingle recollections of adolescent longing with sharply observed scenes of their hesitant relationship as adults..In this instantly engaging novel, told in thoughtful but direct style, all the cleverness is under the bonnet.
Anthony Cummins, Daily Mail

Set in apartheid South Africa, this allegory of boxing, blood and brotherhood ripples with meanings and possibilities... In a country where language is profoundly, and knottily, connected to race and power, it is also a bulwark, and an escape... Full of grace and tenderness, The Distance is a searing tale of loss and learning as well as a beautiful evocation of brotherhood during a time of discord.
Chris Moss, New Welsh Review

The Distance is a moving, sharply observed novel confronting questions of race, memory and forgetting, underlain by the necessity and difficulty of wrestling the past into story.
Cameron Woodhead, The Sydney Morning Herald


Ivan Vladislavić occupies a place all of his own in the South African literary landscape: a versatile stylist and formal innovator whose work is nevertheless firmly rooted in contemporary urban life.
J.M. Coetzee

. . . a startling collection by the South African writer Ivan Vladislavić . . . each protagonist in the four stories of The Exploded View is engaged in an effort to parse and pin down his post-apartheid nation; together, though, the stories suggest the fatuity of classification.
Hermione Hoby, The New Yorker

Vladislavić is a rare, brilliant writer. His work eschews all cant. Its sheer verve, the way it burrows beneath ossified forms of writing, its discipline and the distance it places between itself and the jaded preoccupations of local fiction, distinguish it.
Sunday Times

The writing has a quality of unpredictability, a wildness that seeps through the fabric of Vladislavić’s peerless linguistic control . . . Ivan Vladislavić is one of the most significant writers working in English today. Everyone should read him.
Katie Kitamatura, BOMB Magazine

One of the best writers working today.
Jan Steyn, The Quarterly Conversation

An exquisite intellectual delight.
Southern African Review of Books

A towering presence of the South African literary landscape . . . No other author assays Johannesburg with such quiet power, such lethal delicacy.
Michael Magwood, Magwood on Books

Without doubt one of South Africa’s most interesting authors.
Dagens Nyheter

One of South Africa‘s most finely tuned observers.
Ted Hodgkinson, Times Literary Supplement

Everything changes, in the world system, and nothing changes at all. . .It is a remarkable book, even for a reader who is alien, distant to boxing and a world apart from South Africa.
Peter Beilharz, Thesis Eleven

you can watch a replay of Ivan Vladislavić in the Coming of Age panel at the 2020 Brooklyn Book Festival here

Jennifer Malec interviews Ivan Vladislavić for the Johannesburg Review of Books.

Hermione Hoby writes about Ivan Vladislavić’s The Exploded View for The New Yorker.

Katie Kitamura interviews Ivan Vladislavić for BOMB magazine.

Nicholas Lezard reviews Ivan Vladislavić’s The Folly for The Guardian.