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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

GREEN-EYED THIEVES (article first published : 2006-06-2)

On June 14, Adams Booksellers of Musgrave and Random House/Umuzi Publishers will launch Imraan Coovadia's second novel, Green-Eyed Thieves.

This is a story of twin boys -identical in appearance but in nothing else. Ashraf is all rage and action - a lover of the real. Firoze is a dreamer and reader - a lover of the ideal.

The Dawood family is from Muslim Fordsburg. The father (formally at least) is a merchant and the mother a part-time lecturer at Wits. Their uncle, known universally as Ten-Per-Cent, lives in the house and shares the ginger-beer factory business with his brother. The story begins in Johannesburg but ends in the USA.

Ashraf is jailed in Fort Dix Prison in Texas, and Firoze is just settling in New York with his new young wife.

Among the cast of characters are Mohammed Atta (of 9/11 notoriety), George Bush, a Pakistani Brigadier in Peshawar, a host of lawyers and assorted crooks of one kind or another, plus various Korean massage parlour girls. Firoze is the narrator and he tells the story while in prison - before finally tricking Ashraf into changing places. The story offers itself as an unconventional family memoir that tells the story of the fortunes of a family of crooks - the green-eyed thieves. The mother is an accomplished shoplifter; the father a master of all forms of theft - including all the suits of the Aga Khan who happened to be the same size as Dawood senior. Firoze, the sophisticated dreamer, is not much good at thieving but Ashraf lives for little else.

Reminiscent of Salman Rushdie's early novels, this book brims with fast-paced action, prose and irony, and provides a surprising, fresh take on 9/11 - a subject seldom seen from more than one side.

Imraan Coovadia is a much-published US academic. He holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a Master's degree from Cornell and a PhD from Yale. He has taught 19th Century Studies and Creative Writing at a number of USA universities and is currently an Assistant Professor at Adelphi University, NY.

His debut novel, The Wedding (2002, Picador), was short listed for the 2002 Sunday Times Fiction Award. He lives in New York, but regularly visits South Africa, in particular Durban.




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