From the Jozi Bookstore: The Relatively Public Life of Jules Browde

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The Relatively Public Life of Jules Browde, by his grandson, Daniel Browde. In all regards, a masterpiece.

I must admit, I am not proud of how long it took me to get started on the blog again. Life happened. We changed jobs. We moved to a new house. We got our local contracts. Getting things sorted in our private and professional lives seemed far more important than taking time to ponder over our experience in South Africa. Now that I think of it, it also meant that we had settled in. And this was actually quite a nice feeling.

I also reckon that the blog was a vector forcing us to dig into this big messy thing that is the city of Johannesburg. It drove me to places I would have never visited otherwise, it made me befriend with people that would have remained unknown to me. It enlarged my comfort zone. I kind of missed that.

Fortunately, there are many great blogs about Johannesburg. So why bother? Was there anything left to share that was not known yet? Since we are all targeting the same audience, what was the point of keeping repeating the same thing over and over again? Let the other bloggers do the dirty work, it was much easier this way.

Such were my thoughts when I started reading “The Relatively Public Life of Jules Browde” by Daniel Browde. And everything changed.

The book was a revelation; the urge to share a few words about something that I genuinely loved and cared about came rushing back.

In his book, Daniel depicts, through a series of stories and anecdotes, the life of grandfather, Jules Browde, a brilliant South African advocate and human-rights activist, Mandela’s classmate and Edwin Cameron’s mentor. Every chapter is intertwined with the story of his own struggle to write a book that rises up to the legend of his grandfather. Or, as it soon will turn out, that at least does not tarnish it.

Labelling Daniel’s book a biography would be a deep misconception. Both Daniel and Jules’ stories only give hints and flavors of what the life of the grand patriarch was. But paradoxically, Daniel’s failed attempt to write his grandfather´s biography gives rise to one of the greatest literary accomplishments I have come across in years. It is filled with a deep sense of love and understanding, written in a beautifully intriguing prose, that paints characters who will stay in your heart for long and that will soon lead you to some introspection of your own. This is where Daniel masters his first biggest narrative trick: through his humble and delicate style, he enables the reader to rethink about his/her family, and realize that, as far as their destiny might be from the ones of the Browde’s giants, their lives are filled with stories worth listening to, and worth retelling.

The narrative process works so well that it creates a solid emotional bond between the reader and Daniel’s book. Little by little, we start caring for the whole Browde clan as if it was our own. And that is where the second trick starts kicking in: in the same fashion that Daniel found the energy to write a book that does not demerit his grandfather’s fame, it gives us the strength to accomplish some of our deepest aspirations, to start believing again that anything is possible and that under the kind looks of our ancestors, we can accomplish the greatest things.

So thanks Daniel for sharing in such a beautiful manner the story of your family. It will live in our hearts forever, along the ones of our own kin.


Jozi’s landmarks: the FNB Stadium


The Calabash, symbol of “togetherness”, a value at the heart of the African culture

This is surely one the most iconic buildings in the city, a symbol known around the globe, reminiscent of the good old days of the 2010 World Cup.  Considered by many as the heart of the South African football history, the FNB Stadium hosted during its more than 30 years of existence a range of venues that goes beyond the sporting universe. Its stunning architectural features and the solemn atmosphere of the place makes it worth to visit: no need to be a big sport fan, I guarantee you will love it.

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The magic of Harties

Yep, that's what you get to see when you take the Harties cableway!

Yep, that’s what you get to see when you take the Harties cableway!

As unpronounceable as it might be for us foreigners, Hartbeespoort is actually quite a well-known place amongst Jo’burgers. Just one hour away from the big city, the small resort town located on the slopes of the Magaliesberg range is the go-to place for who want to escape from the frenziness of the city, reconnect with the wild and enjoy the deep blue sight of its famous dam.

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Visiting ConHill, a fascinating experience

The Flame of Democracy, at the entrance of the Constitutional Court

The Flame of Democracy, at the entrance of the Constitutional Court

Constitution Hill is a very special place, in the sense that it fully embodies the darkest hours of the city and in the same time a glorious attempt to build a brighter future for the country. People here strive to ensure that the memories of the past, as dark as they may be, are remembered so that the values of the Constitution are kept alive and embedded in the laws of the country. Seeing how this process has been integrated at all levels, even in the architecture of the place, is a fascinating experience and that is why I can only recommend to whoever comes to the country to go and visit to the hill. You won’t be disappointed.

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An evening with the Lions

Go Lions!

Go Lions!

In September last year, I won the “Welcome to Jozi” pack from 94.7, one of the most popular radio stations in the city, which basically means that for a whole year I get free tickets to all the parks, museums and events sponsored by the radio. Quite a nice way to feel welcomed in the city, I must say!

Hence, as part of the pack, I got tickets to all the rugby games of the season but never managed to make it to any of these so far. That was until last week, when I finally got to see the Lions playing the Waratahs in Ellis Park. I  loved it so much that I can only recommend to anyone who comes to the city to go and support the local team. Here are the reasons why.

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Down to the core, the Hillbrow story

Down to the core of Ponte City Tower

I became fascinated with the Ponte Tower the day I saw a picture taken from the base of the building. The light, tunnelled down to the core, reflected on the hundreds of windows of the structure, created a dramatic effect that I had never seen anywhere else. I wanted to see it for myself. Yes, but the Ponte Tower is on the verge of Hillbrow, the part of the city that everybody told us to avoid. There was no way for us to get there.

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