Nominated by:

City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Library & Information Services, South Africa

Publisher of nominated edition:

Umuzi, South Africa

Tales of the Metric System

Imraan Coovadia      

2016 Longlist

From a Natal boarding school in the seventies and Soviet spies in London in the eighties to the 1995 Rugby World Cup and intrigue in the Union Buildings, Tales of the Metric System shows how ten days spread across four decades send tidal waves through the lives of ordinary and extraordinary South Africans alike.

An unforgettable cast of characters includes Ann, who is trying to protect her husband and son in 1970, and Victor, whose search for a missing document in 1973 will change his life forever. Rock guitarist Yash takes his boy to the beach on Boxing Day in 1979 to meet his revolutionary cousin, while Shanti, his granddaughter, loses her cellphone and falls in love twice on a lucky afternoon in 2010.

Playwrights, politicians, philosophers, and thieves, all caught in their individual stories, burst from the pages of Imraan Coovadia’s Tales of the Metric System as it measures South Africa’s modern history in its own remarkable units of imagination.

(from publisher)

About the Author

Imraan Coovadia was born in Durban in 1970. He is the author of the novels The Wedding, Green-Eyed Thieves, High Low In-between, and The Institute for Taxi Poetry. He has also published a study of V.S. Naipaul, as well as a collection of essays, Transforma­tions, and has contributed to publications including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, N+1, The Independent, Threepenny Review, Chimurenga, and The Times of India. His work has won the Sunday Times Fiction Prize, the University of Johannes­burg Prize, the M-Net Prize, and a South African Literary Award for Non-Fiction. He is a graduate of Harvard College and directs the writing programme at the University of Cape Town.

Librarian’s Comments

This novel is rich, deep and philosophically interesting. Written as a set of interconnecting stories, Tales of the Metric System is used as a metaphor for the change in consciousness of South Africans. Coovadia examines and investigates how to decide what counts in life, how to measure this, and what is immeasurable – yet vitally important.

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