Published: 6 February 2014
Hardback, Royal PB
153x234mm, 368 pages
As a boy growing up in 1970s Johannesburg Mark Gevisser would play 'Dispatcher', a game that involved sitting in his father's parked car (or in the study) and sending imaginary couriers on routes across the city, mapped out from Holmden's Register of Johannesburg. As the imaginary fleet made its way across the troubled city and its tightly bound geographies, so too did the young dispatcher begin to figure out his own place in the world.
At the centre of Dispatcher is the account of a young boy who is obsessed with maps and books, and other boys. Mark Gevisser's account of growing up as the gay son of Jewish immigrants, in a society deeply affected - on a daily basis - by apartheid and its legacy, provides a uniquely layered understanding of place and history. It explores a young man's maturation into a fully engaged and self-aware citizen, first of his city, then of his country and the world beyond. This is a story of memory, identity and an intensely personal relationship with the City of Gold. It is also the story of a violent home invasion and its aftermath, and of a man's determination to reclaim his home town.
‘Rich with South African history... Profound [and] intimate’
‘[Gevisser's] prose style is so fluid, so easy, the reader feels as though he has been taken by the hand and is being gently led down a path by a guide who can be trusted to point out interesting landmarks... A humane and enlightened observer, capturing both an extraordinary chapter of history and the essence of a turbulent, shifting society via the examination of his own life’ Michela Wrong
‘[Depicts a] profound sense of place’
‘Poignant... Gevisser writes intelligently and honestly, giving us fascinating insights into aspects of South African life during and after apartheid’
‘[Its] aesthetic of abundance and openness is powerful... Dispatcher joins a range of experiments in non-fiction from South Africa that are by turns compelling and troubling, generous and chaotic... Brilliant [and] absorbing’ Hedley Twidle
‘Part memoir, part psycho-geography, his book is concerned with life as it's lived in these liminal spaces, which in Gevisser's fine handling, take on both physical and symbolic dimensions... A loving portrait of the city’ Emma Brockes