An inner life of Johannesburg that turns on the author’s fascination with maps, boundaries, and transgressions
This singular memoir begins with a transgression—the invasion of a private home in Johannesburg, South Africa. But it is far more than the story of a theft. Lost and Found in Johannesburg is a luminous exploration of place, one in which the author’s and the reader’s assumptions are constantly being tested.
As a child growing up in apartheid South Africa, Mark Gevisser was obsessed with maps—and with Holmden’s Register, Johannesburg’s street guide, in particular. He played a game called Dispatcher with this eccentric guide, transporting himself across the city into places that would otherwise be forbidden to him. It was through Dispatcher that he discovered apartheid by realizing that he could not find an access route to the neighboring township of Alexandra and, later, by realizing that Soweto was not mapped at all. This was the beginning of his lifelong obsession with maps and photographs, and what they tell us about borders and boundaries—how we define ourselves by staying within them or by transgressing them. This memoir is an account of getting lost in one’s hometown, and then finding oneself as a gay Jewish South African who was raised under apartheid and who eventually married a man of a different race as the country moved toward freedom.
Using maps, shards of memory, photographs, and stories, Gevisser constructs a stunning portrait of race and sexuality, heritage and otherness.