Joburg, Jozi, Egoli, Johussleburg, etc. Johannesburg is known by a few more monikers asides from the aforementioned ones. This megacity is South Africa’s biggest and busiest city. Established in the late 1880s on the back of migrant mining activities, it is a city as vibrant as can be imagined for a megacity; a city full of hope, trauma and possibilities, each in a substantial measure. It is this sprawling city that Joburg Noir is set in. A collection of 20 short stories that explore and illuminate the very plural nature of the cosmopolitan city.
Joburg Noir, like most short story collections, has hits and misses. In its favour, there are lots of hits and very few misses. I found some of the stories to be very impressive hits. I particularly enjoyed Weep For Me, Willow by Fred Khumalo, Dreams and Others Deceptions by Keletso Mopai, Nineteen Questions by Nkateko Masinga and The Airport Project by Styles Lucas Ledwaba. In typical Noir fashion, these hits and a few others expose the underbelly of the city – be it corruption, crime, xenophobia or the decay of public infrastructure. More than these, Joburg Noir has an eclectic mix of stories that relive the past and explore the present while pointing the way to a future that serves as a warning. In these stories hopes are dashed, dreams are extinguished and yet in some, hope is rekindled. Like the city, the stories explore the plurality of the city.
The only issue I had was that a few (three) of the stories felt more like essays than fiction. As much as they conveyed the nostalgia of the writers, they lacked any air of fictionality and felt misplaced in the midst of the fictional narratives of the other stories. In all, this was a very decent collection and anyone who enjoyed Lagos Noir should enjoy this too. Recommended.