x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Double Negative is a no-no

The novel Double Negative is struck with the same affliction that befalls its main character: that of a listless narrative and lack of purpose in storytelling, Noori Pasella writes

Double Negative by Ivan Vladislavic.
Double Negative by Ivan Vladislavic.

Given the critical acclaim showered on Ivan Vladislavic’s previous works, the expectation of a certain standard arrives with his most recent offering, Double Negative, which was already shortlisted for several awards in the author’s native South Africa. Though originally published in 2010 as a novel with photographs, the 2013 edition is solely text.

Neville Lister begins his story as a college drop-out living with his parents during the tension-filled years of apartheid. Perturbed by his son’s pent-up frustration, Neville’s father arranges a day out for him with locally renowned photographer Saul Auerbach, in the hopes that it will lead to a much-needed epiphany. While initially reluctant, the experience leaves Neville a changed man, even long after his departure from and return to a new South Africa as a photographer in his own right.

As a novel, Double Negative is unfortunately struck with the same affliction that befalls its main character: that of a listless narrative and lack of purpose in storytelling. While Vladislavic’s observations of human suffering are interesting in their brief glimpses, the sum of its parts does not measure up to the whole point of the journey.

Noori Pasella is a regular contributor to The National