In Enver Eleven’s city, fair-skinned people are a rarity and have been for centuries. Those who remain apply skin-darkening creams to conceal their condition. Johannesburg is the city that survived the end of the world when a supernova hit, thanks to the shelter provided by the thousands of miles of mining tunnels running beneath it.
A spy for the Historical Agency, making sure the end of the world never happens again is Enver Eleven’s task. Enver and his mentor, Shanumi Six, time-travel between past and future, in Marrakech, Rio de Janeioro, Tokyo—in search of an elusive enemy plotting against the Agency. When Shanumi vanishes on assignment Enver finds himself in the middle of a catastrophe which will require him to put his assumptions to the test in an atmosphere of conspiracy and intrigue that harkens back (and forward) to John le Carré and Ray Bradbury. Enver must prove that he is no double agent, an allegation as frightening as a white skin in a world where it has all but vanished.
But if you could go back and change the past, would the future turn out the way you want it to? Imraan Coovadia’s dazzlingly original A Spy in Time is an extraordinary tale for extraordinary times.
In ten chapters that describe ten days spread over four decades—from 1970 to 2010—this utterly compelling novel gives us a rich and intimate history of South Africa. From a Natal boarding school in the seventies and Soviet spies in London in the eighties to the 1995 Rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg and intrigue in the Union Buildings, the seat of the South African government, Tales of the Metric System shows how events that are seemingly unrelated but in fact interconnected in many different ways 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; Victor, whose search for a missing document in 1973 will change his life forever; guitarist Yash, who takes his boy to the beach on Boxing Day in 1979 to meet his revolutionary cousin; and Shanti, who 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 Tales of the Metric System as it measures modern South Africa’s story in its own remarkable units of imagination.