archive - issue 4

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    By MJ Turpin
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  • Apartment / Containers

    By Vincent Bezuidenhout
    These diptychs are the start of a series of images I have been working on regarding the visual landscape we choose to surround ourselves
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  • Collage

    By Claudio Parentela
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  • Drag and Snap

    By Leigh-Anne Niehaus
    This series is inspired by the childhood game of "snapdragon", which allows for simplistic and delightful decision-making through random selections of colour and number.
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  • Human/Nature

    By Lydia Anne McCarthy
    This series explores moments between nature and human beings that are at once idealistic and unsettling. Each picture is an independent narrative, but placed
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  • p u n c t u a t i o n

    By Ula Einstein
    Einstein works with a diverse range of media, including drawings and installation with fire, thread, and blades. The series of drawings and installations with
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  • Pretty Babies

    By Peregrine Honig
    With the premise that "/ " presents what is IN and what is OUT, the "Pretty Babies" series explores the fashion industry's well-published and syndicated DOs
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  • River Bank

    By Mario Sughi
    The symbol / is intended initially as a symbol of division. A real or unreal line divides the girl from the water, the girl from
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  • Seasaw

    By Sol Kjøk
    Here, the motif is conceived of as a seesaw (the typo in the title is intended, as this drawing is part of a series
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  • Series Seven Up

    By Noel Fignier
    Text by João Branco Kyron, HipnóticaThe collision is imminent and in the fraction of time left, the eyes shut and the vision is superbly
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  • A battle over samoosas between the snobbish Cinderella and a homeless electrician is mediated by Cinderella's boyfriend JJ. The samoosa battle is conflated with
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  • Untitled

    By Wilhelm Saayman
    This series of images, made using pen and ink, photographs and Photoshop, explore alternate/dream realities.
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  • Let's go there

    By Leigh Le Roux
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  • The space between.

    By Mehita Iqani
    It's a handy little line, the one that we use to make our options known. Either/Or. Paper and ink or binary code? Its clichéd,
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  • /

    By Ruth Barker
    On the QWERTY layout of my computer keyboard, the symbol / appears beside the questioning symbol ?. They are represented together on the same key, and
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  • I returned home after my first year in college to discover my younger sister had turned gorgeous. This was a disappointment, but not an
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  • Forward! Slash!

    By Travis Lyle
    You think you're a forward-thinking kinda person, do you? Lemme be the one to break it to you, sunshine – you're as lame as the
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  • Letter to the Editor

    By Elan Gamaker
    Dear Sir/Madam I should like strenuously to object to the subject matter ("/") of your current issue. It must first be mentioned, however, that it
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  • Butterfly

    By Adriana de Barros
    The pupa, a silk wrap of emotionsIsolated, within breathing, wanting to bethe intense pronoun of selfIt is silly to be one's own pronounShe giggles
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  • Evidence of Life

    By Tamlyn Martin
    Below is an extract from a series of 11 poems created in parallel with visual artworks. 5. Memories laced with visceral realityFlooding herThe gentle
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  • Immigrants

    By Stanley Onjezani Kenani
    you want to livenothing else.you leaveto liveyou swimor like fresh sardinesyou are packedin boatsyou leaveto live.  you leavegold in the belly of Africaoil in
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  • In Between

    By Tania van Schalkwyk
    Raised in an Arabian land of heat, fire and temper,sometimes the calm of England clamps downlike damp in a bathroom with no windowand a
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  • Or: a line drawing

    By Gabeba Baderoon
    Pencil and nothing. Her face turned almost entirely away. Forehead, cheekbone,jaw,the bun low in her neck,shoulderand down,the long linejust enoughthen left alone.
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  • Scissor

    By Charlotte Gait
    There was a time when you and I were connected by iron, acid, vitamin and blood. Where every mouthful I took was with the
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  • Un Hombre Fuerte

    By Tamo Vonarim
    Sun.star.kid: Written these words are, at times of a subconscious flow – whether they are mine, I don't know. All I know is that I
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  • Unbroken Awareness

    By TENDAI MWANAKA
    My life is now a floating shellI am a vessel on that river.The storm, the ship, the sea,Whose shores we lost in crossing.  I
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  • Untitled

    By Aryan Kaganof
    /At R550 rand I thought I'd rather die/ My mother: can I trust this woman?/ I thought the Romans were coming, dinkum/ …and always
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  • PATCH

    By Sean Hampton-Cole
    Keys. John speaking. 'Lo?Good morning. May I speak to Bob Mitchell please?Bob in Bonds?I'm not really sure. I'm trying to...You want extension 125. This
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  • Wayne Porter, freelance journalist, donned his anthropologist's birthday suit and hit the bowling alley. Bar the bowlers hat tipped gently off centre, the man
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  • The Incised Wound

    By Joanne Hichens
    "Please, for me, Dave," I placed my hand on his, and really, no begging, just asked him nicely, "Lay off the booze tonight." Whether
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  • He had been driving for hours through that unstable, somnambulist night when he fell asleep at the wheel. He awoke with a start and
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Monday, 07 May 2012 02:00

The Loss Library and Other Unfinished Stories

By  Karina Magdalena Szczurek
Ivan Vladislavić is one of South Africa's finest contemporary writers. His latest offering is a most unusual book about some of the most unusual stories: those which have never seen the light of a published page, at least not in their initially intended form.

The Loss Library comprises of eleven "case studies" of "unsettled accounts" from "three distinct periods". The first is the time of the transition between 1989 and 1992 when Vladislavić, like most authors in the country, felt more like a historian than a writer. The second and third periods, the years between 1996-99 and 2004-05, are characterised by Vladislavić's fascination with the act of documentation itself: "They feature libraries, research papers and dictionaries, and the means to read and write - or not to read and write - books."

The Loss Library is an invitation to watch a great writer at work. In the book we not only accompany Vladislavić on a trip through his notebooks but also through the vast spaces of his imagination. It is obviously impossible to tell it all, but the glimpses Vladislavić offers into the creative process are highly engaging.

At the centre of the book is the "loss library" of the titular story, one of the most evocative and beautiful accounts of writing and loss I have ever read. A writer follows a librarian into rooms filled with books which could have been. There are the "ones that would have been written had their writers not died young" like the "mature work" of John Keats or Bruno Schulz - the idea alone makes one's heart ache. Just imagine being able only to trace the spine of one of these volumes with your fingertip.

Thou still unravished bride of quietness...

Then there are the books which "authors lost faith in", or which were "lost for one reason or another", or the ones which never went beyond their existence in the dreams of their creators. The books must remain on their shelves, unopened, as the consequence of their being known or read are unpredictable. But just thinking about the possibilities makes one feel dizzy with the kind of anticipation which can never be fulfilled.

The Loss Library will appeal to any reader with a sense of adventure and eagerness to explore the craft of writing. Readers familiar with Vladislavić's oeuvre will discover an indispensible companion to his own work - I couldn't help thinking, for example, how the accounts "The Last Walk" or "Mrs B" enriched my reading of Vladislavić's last novel Double Negative (2010) as they also explore the unsettling role images play in our construction and understanding of history.

In some of the accounts Vladislavić also makes explicit references to the genesis of some of the elements in his other published novels and short stories. And throughout the book he tells the stories of the stories he never told the way he imagined he would: about an accidental drawing he discovered under his computer mouse which haunted him for days, or about a mysterious sign on the roof of a building which prodded a whole series of imaginary and real investigations, or about the search for bird names in their "linguistic habitat", the dictionary, with Vladislavić "crashing through the pages in [...his] city clothes."

Slim, beautifully produced (striking cover illustration by Sunandini Banerjee; text design by a master of his craft, William Dicey), The Loss Library is a monument to all (un)written stories. Those readers who not only delight in their reception, but are also its practitioners might sigh with deep relief for the articulation of an experience which is essential to the art, but often seems too fleeting to be captured in words.



The Loss Library and Other Unfinished Stories

by Ivan Vladislavić
Cape Town: Umuzi, 2011
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