Aubrey Teale, the protagonist of Vladislavic's (Double Negative) second novel is very much a snob—and more than a little racist and xenophobic. The novel begins as the year of 1993 draws to a close, Martinus Theodosius Wessels, Teale's old acquaintance, decides to plan a goodbye bash to mourn the closing of an old hangout, Cafe Europa, and temporarily reunite the old regulars who have gradually abandoned the establishment. Teale has grown to despise Cafe Europa and the changing face of South Africa in a post-Apartheid era, he sees the goodbye bash as an opportunity to promote his life's work The Proofreader's Derby, a homage to proofreading. From his old associates, we learn that Teale, a man who once made his living proofreading telephone books, is dull and stuffy, obsessed with the idea of declining standards in language and society, and filled with a longing to correct everything but himself. From the collapse of the Berlin Wall to the release of Nelson Mandela, Vladislavic creates several funny moments that rely on recent history as a backdrop. Still, this smart book is at times hard to sit with because the joke is ultimately not on Teale, but on us, the readers. Vladislavic's sly prose forces us to recognize our own obsessions with language and class. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/31/2014 Release date: 04/01/2014 Genre: Fiction
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