The Folly by Ivan VladislavicThe Folly by Ivan Vladislavic

The Folly

byIvan Vladislavic

Paperback | September 22, 2015

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A vacant patch of South African veld next to the comfortable, complacent Malgas household has been taken over by a mysterious, eccentric figure with "a plan." Fashioning his tools out of recycled garbage, the stranger enlists Malgas's help in clearing the land and planning his mansion. Slowly but inevitably, the stranger's charm and the novel's richly inventive language draws Malgas into "the plan" and he sees, feels and moves into the new building. Then, just as remorselessly, all that seemed solid begins to melt back into air.
Ivan Vladislavić was born in Pretoria in 1957 and lives in Johannesburg. His books include the novels The Restless Supermarket, The Exploded View and Double Negative, and a compendium of short stories titled Flashback Hotel. In 2006, he published "Portrait with Keys," a sequence of documentary texts on Johannesburg. He has edited books...
Title:The FollyFormat:PaperbackDimensions:160 pages, 6.47 × 5.51 × 0.53 inPublished:September 22, 2015Publisher:Steerforth PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0914671375

ISBN - 13:9780914671374

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Sublime and Poetic Prose I'm a diehard Southerner, but if I ever considered moving to New York, the only reason would be to live near the offices of Archipelago Books. This publisher has an unerring eye for the best in international fiction, whether in translation or written originally in English. The Folly, written by South African Ivan Vladislavić, falls into the latter category, and it is absolutely sublime. The easiest thing for me would be to simply appropriate Audrey Schoeman's Goodreads review. Like her, I filled my reading journal with so many beautiful passages that I might as well have copied the entire book. As Audrey observes, Vladislavić is a master of poetic prose, particularly in his description of everyday things, whether the "socks rolled into balls and swallowing their own toes" or Mr. Malgas's beloved overalls: Each job had left a blemish on the cloth - a birthmark of enamel paint, a festering oil-stain, sutured cuts and tears, scabs of wood glue and Polyfilla. Vladislavić tells us that for Mrs. Malgas, "[j]ust to look at them gave her pins and needles in her hands"; just to read about them gives me pins and needles in my soul. None of the other Goodreads reviewers, however, has pointed out two other things about this book which intrigued me. First was the title, which alludes to both meanings of the word "folly." Its primary definition is lack of good sense or foolishness, and that is clearly how Mrs. Malgas views her husband's efforts to assist Nieuwenhuizen in building his new house. However, a folly can also be an ornamental (and usually costly) edifice with no practical purpose; while Nieuwenhuizen's house is not costly, being constructed (to the extent it exists at all) from salvaged and repurposed materials, it certainly lacks any practical purpose because it is merely a figment of the men's imaginations. I don't know enough about South Africa, during or after apartheid, to recognize whether the idea of an architectural folly has political significance, either on its own or as compared with other cultures in which such buildings are typically found, but one of the joys of The Folly, and Archipelago's other titles, is that I want to dig deeper to find out. My second observation involves Vladislavić's use of terms which seem to have Christian significance. I read an ARC, so it's entirely possible that this was a typographical anomaly corrected before publication, but almost immediately after Mr (as the spouses refer to each other) starts actively working on Nieuwenhuizen's plot, Mrs starts referring to Nieuwenhuizen as "Him": "'Typical,' she sniffed. "You’ll give Him the shirt off your back, although you don’t know Him from Adam, while your own family goes hungry." Christians use such capitalization when referring to Jesus; is Vladislavić suggesting that Nieuwenhuizen is some type of Christ figure? Similarly, when Mr picks up the unusually long nails (spikes, as in the Crucifixion?) Nieuwenhuizen has requested, they are packaged in two boxes of a gross each, with the remaining dozen wrapped separately: "the surplus dozen - the Twelve, as he thought of them." The Twelve traditionally refers to the twelve apostles; is Mr drawing a parallel here between the nails and the apostles and, if so, what does he mean? Regardless of the answers to these questions (if there even are any), The Folly is a language lover's dream, and the cover design selected by Archipelago is exquisite as well. I highly recommend The Folly. I received a free copy of The Folly through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Date published: 2015-08-28

Editorial Reviews"As the project billows to fantastical and unstable proportions, the novel’s social realism swells into magical realism. The house becomes a literal castle in the air—evidence that neither messy reality nor imagination can be accounted for by blueprints." — Hermione Hoby, The New Yorker"A slim, symbolic novel with allegorical overtones. . . It's clear the author wants us to focus on the ideal rather than the real, and his stylistic playfulness pulls us into his vision, much as Malgas is pulled into Nieuwenhuizen's. Playful fiction with a corresponding (and paradoxical) seriousness of intent." — Kirkus Reviews"[A] heady, lively, and darkly surreal novel by South African writer Vladislavic. . . Vladislavic’s cryptic, haunting tale echoes Jorge Luis Borges and David Lynch, drawing readers into its strange depths." — Publishers Weekly"The Folly, Vladislavić’s first novel...plays out like a berserk blend of fairy tales, the plays of Samuel Beckett, and the films of Jacques Tati... Vladislavić ushers the reader into a strange and liminal space, and leaves a number of mysteries unanswered." —Tobias Carroll, Electric Literature "A very fine piece of writing, and a very good work." — M.A.Orthofer, The Complete Review"Vladislavic is without doubt the most significant writer in South Africa today." -- Focus on Africa"The Folly, by Ivan Vladislavic, was wonderful. It’s a political allegory (or parable? or something in between?) that must have been amazing to read in the context of emerging democratic South Africa in 1993 but has lost none of its power over the years." — Audrey Schoeman, The Guardian"Vladislavic 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 "His art is about loosening the terrible grip of a world of dead images and opening the flow of new perceptions and fresh understanding." -- Sunday Independent"This is the first U.S. publication of Vladislavić’s debut, which was taken to be an absurdist allegorical fiction about apartheid. Praised by the likes of Coetzee and others — it’s not hard to see why — The Folly tells the story of a man who seems to be reenacting, as one reviewer wrote, 'the basics of a civilized life,' while he is watched from a nearby house by a couple known as 'Mr. and Mrs.' The upbuilding sense of chaos might remind you of our own time." — Jonathon Sturgeon, Flavorwire"The Folly is mysterious, lyrical and wickedly funny – a masterful novel about loving and fearing your neighbor. Ivan Vladislavić is one of the most significant writers working in English today. Everyone should read him." — Katie Kitamura, author of  Japanese for Travellers - A Journey "The rise and fall of "the plan" at the heart of this potent short novel is as brilliant as it is unsettling.  Vladislavić writes with spring-loaded precision about universal dreams and local desolation.  A fable for the ages, a parable for our times." — Laird Hunt, author of Neverhome "The prose is stunning. It gives the impression of the words and the phrases having been caught from the inside." — Tony Morphet, author of The Eye of the Needle: Towards Participatory Democracy in South Africa "A parable about land, ownership and power? A fable about the imagined other? An allegory of contestation and co-existence, or of the building (and dismantling) of systems? Occupying atantalizingly unnameable region between fable, allegory and parable, Ivan Vladislavić's first novel announces a powerfully original imagination, expressed in unparalleled stylistic precision and brilliance. Nothing short of a great contemporary writer, he pushes at form and content to make something strangely new and profound of the novel." — Neel Mukherjee, author of The Lives of Others"Ivan Vladislavić possesses a rare ability to turn parable into page-turner. In The Folly, which brings to mind the work of Calvino and Beckett, he conjures a chimera that hovers tantalizingly just beyond understanding. This funny and ultimately haunting novel reminds us that our desires – whether for stability, meaning, or solidarity – rest on the flimsiest foundations." — Stephen Sparks, Green Apple Books