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.
23/08/2014, 8.30pm - 9.30pm
"Children of the Revolutions": Mark Gevisser in conversation with Maxim Leo
Both Mark Gevisser and Maxim Leo grew up in countries now barely recognisable from the ones they experienced during childhood. In Dispatcher, Gevisser delivers an impassioned meditation on South Africa, home and identity, based on his 1970s upbringing in Johannesburg. Meanwhile Leo has written Red Love, a fascinating memoir looking back at his childhood in East Berlin, revealing a GDR full of hopes, dreams and betrayals.
Edinburgh International Book Festival, Baillie Gifford Main Theatre, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, EH2 4DR