Layers of Permanence: Toward a Spatial-Materialist Reading of Ivan Vladislavić’s The Exploded View
Scrutiny2: Issues in English Studies in Southern Africa
Critics of Vladislavić's early fiction have tended toward dehistoricized textual readings focusing on the author's clear preoccupation with words and word games. Such readings have often ignored or downplayed Vladislavić's equally clear interest in the material processes and socio-physical spaces that shape and enable life in the city. This essay develops a spatial-materialist interpretation of his most recent novel The exploded view, reading word games and puzzles as part of a larger attempt to map the labyrinthine geographies of the post-apartheid city. Vladislavić forges a mode of representation that can register the continual inscription and effacement of social relations onto the physical urban landscape. This narrative strategy, similar to what William Kentridge calls an aesthetic of “imperfect erasure”, operates in tandem with the trope of the “exploded view” to dissect contemporary Johannesburg and lay bare the social and economic processes that create and intersect it.
“Layers of Permanence: Toward a Spatial-Materialist Reading of Ivan Vladislavić’s The Exploded View.” Scrutiny2: Issues in English Studies in Southern Africa 11.2 (2006) (special issue devoted to Vladislavić): 48-61. Reprinted in lightly revised form in Mediations: Journal of the Marxist Literary Group 24.1 (2008).