Catalogue


People who have stolen from me /
David Cohen.
edition
1st Picador ed.
imprint
New York : Picador, 2004.
description
xv, 264 p.
ISBN
0312424531 (pbk.)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
author
imprint
New York : Picador, 2004.
isbn
0312424531 (pbk.)
catalogue key
5434105
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Flap Copy
"The true story of two elderly brothers-in-law who run a furniture business in Johannesburg. Since 1994, their lives have been a turmoil of theft, betrayal and family strife as the new South Africa helps itself to their stock...David Cohen has gone some way to providing Johannesburg with its own Mordecai Richler."--Evening Standard Brothers-in-law Harry and Jack run a Johannesburg furniture business that is being robbed repeatedly. The investigation of the crime reveals that the perpetrators lie even closer than the proprietors expected--and explores also how the social forces at work in South Africa today have made crime the country's biggest growth industry. Written on the tenth anniversary of the fall of apartheid, People Who Have Stolen From Me describes a nation in the throes of rebuilding itself, through the eyes of two witty, perceptive men. "One of the most important books you will read this year." --Sunday Times, South Africa "A perceptive and original take on the causes and consequences of South Africa's current crime wave....Social analysis with verve and insight." --Kirkus Reviews "Acclaimed British-South African author David Cohen presents a pressing empirical question about South Africa: Just who has stolen from whom? The balance of detachment and intimacy is Cohen's greatest strength...This is not so much a book about crime as it is about relative moralities." --This Day, South Africa "An important piece of reportage that vividly and sensitively demonstrates how difficult it is for societies, where justice has long been perverted, to change overnight. ...A comprehensive account of the current condition that also does much to explain the failing grade in crime on the national report card." --Washington Times "Rather than taking a broad sociological approach, Cohen brilliantly uses one store-and its owners, customers, staff, thieves and swindlers-as a microcosm of the greater problem. The dn0 strength of Cohen's characterizations and narrative provide for a portrait of the new South Africa that many will find illuminating, fascinating and, sadly, universal."--Publishers Weekly "A startlingly refreshing examination of the new South Africa's cathartic rebirth [and] one of the first books to deal with the story behind the headlines." --South African Times, London David Cohen, an award-winning journalist and a native of Johannesburg, is the author of Chasing the Red, White, and Blue (Picador 2001). He lives in London.
Excerpt from Book
Preface The demise of apartheid and the birth of the new South Africa was one of the most celebrated and defining moments of the twentieth century. Decades of institutionalized racial discrimination and hundreds of years of oppression were finally ended in the last week of April 1994 when the country went to the polls and---in the first democratic elections in its history---voted in the African National Congress with Nelson Mandela as president. The world had high hopes for what could be achieved in the newly dubbed "rainbow nation" and promised to help by investing in the country and by vigorously reversing the economic, cultural, and political sanctions of the apartheid era. During the apartheid years, and especially in the lead-up to the historic 1994 elections, South Africa was the focus of intense world-wide media scrutiny. Then, as so often happens after a cataclysmic event, it largely fell off the radar. The intimate portrait that fills these pages reveals a slice of what happened next. The story takes place towards the end of the first decade of democratic rule and is set in a family business on Jules Street, a street officially recorded by the city elders as the longest straight street in Johannesburg---but on which crooked men thrive. Yes, nothing is quite as it seems. The book follows the tragicomic fortunes of two charismatic businessmen and their colorful coterie of employees---who include former carjackers---as they attempt to "get by" in the new South Africa. For the white owners of the store who find themselves on the wrong end of a relentless crime wave, "getting by" means constantly shoring up their security and attempting to bring justice to the people---including their own trusted employees and, dramatically, even their own family members---who are stealing from them. Then there is the perspective of the stealers who themselves---white, black, and Indian---who reveal their secret methods and motivations to the reader, but not always to their employers. All at once, we are caught up in a myriad of vividly unfolding dramas that are reflective of personal, as well as national, dilemmas. For the furniture store is a thoroughfare through which almost the entire South African racial and social spectrum passes---white, black, Indian, mixed-race, middle class, and working class. And in this sense, it offers itself up as a fascinating microcosm of life---and morality---in South Africa today. The broader context against which the narrative unfolds is that ten years into the new South Africa, crime has soared beyond all expectations to become the country's biggest growth industry. The official crime figures show that robbery has risen by an extraordinary 169 percent, housebreaking by 33 percent, cash heists, as well as carjacking, by 30 percent---and this off an already disturbingly high level of crime in 1994. To put this in global perspective, a recent survey of corporate crime by accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that 71 percent of companies in South Africa report being the victims of fraud in the last two years, compared to 51 percent of businesses in the rest of Africa, and just 37 percent worldwide. The repercussions of this crime wave are potentially catastrophic for the country as a whole and extend far beyond the immediate victims. For crime---and the fear it engenders---is the biggest cause of the brain drain and a critical deterrence to desperately needed foreign investment. One could argue that it is, paradoxically, a measure of the extraordinary achievements of the new democratic South Africa that the country's main fault line is perhaps no longer between white and black, or communist and capitalist, or even rich and poor---but rather between the clean and the corrupt. Between those who opt to pursue their living by legitimate means, and those who, for whatever reason, choose the path of deception and crime. Between---to put it bluntly---the honest man and th
First Chapter
Preface The demise of apartheid and the birth of the new South Africa was one of the most celebrated and defining moments of the twentieth century. Decades of institutionalized racial discrimination and hundreds of years of oppression were finally ended in the last week of April 1994 when the country went to the polls and---in the first democratic elections in its history---voted in the African National Congress with Nelson Mandela as president. The world had high hopes for what could be achieved in the newly dubbed "rainbow nation" and promised to help by investing in the country and by vigorously reversing the economic, cultural, and political sanctions of the apartheid era. During the apartheid years, and especially in the lead-up to the historic 1994 elections, South Africa was the focus of intense world-wide media scrutiny. Then, as so often happens after a cataclysmic event, it largely fell off the radar. The intimate portrait that fills these pages reveals a slice of what happened next. The story takes place towards the end of the first decade of democratic rule and is set in a family business on Jules Street, a street officially recorded by the city elders as the longest straight street in Johannesburg---but on which crooked men thrive. Yes, nothing is quite as it seems. The book follows the tragicomic fortunes of two charismatic businessmen and their colorful coterie of employees---who include former carjackers---as they attempt to "get by" in the new South Africa. For the white owners of the store who find themselves on the wrong end of a relentless crime wave, "getting by" means constantly shoring up their security and attempting to bring justice to the people---including their own trusted employees and, dramatically, even their own family members---who are stealing from them. Then there is the perspective of the stealers who themselves---white, black, and Indian---who reveal their secret methods and motivations to the reader, but not always to their employers. All at once, we are caught up in a myriad of vividly unfolding dramas that are reflective of personal, as well as national, dilemmas. For the furniture store is a thoroughfare through which almost the entire South African racial and social spectrum passes---white, black, Indian, mixed-race, middle class, and working class. And in this sense, it offers itself up as a fascinating microcosm of life---and morality---in South Africa today. The broader context against which the narrative unfolds is that ten years into the new South Africa, crime has soared beyond all expectations to become the country's biggest growth industry. The official crime figures show that robbery has risen by an extraordinary 169 percent, housebreaking by 33 percent, cash heists, as well as carjacking, by 30 percent---and this off an already disturbingly high level of crime in 1994. To put this in global perspective, a recent survey of corporate crime by accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that 71 percent of companies in South Africa report being the victims of fraud in the last two years, compared to 51 percent of businesses in the rest of Africa, and just 37 percent worldwide. The repercussions of this crime wave are potentially catastrophic for the country as a whole and extend far beyond the immediate victims. For crime---and the fear it engenders---is the biggest cause of the brain drain and a critical deterrence to desperately needed foreign investment. One could argue that it is, paradoxically, a measure of the extraordinary achievements of the new democratic South Africa that the country's main fault line is perhaps no longer between white and black, or communist and capitalist, or even rich and poor---but rather between the clean and the corrupt. Between those who opt to pursue their living by legitimate means, and those who, for whatever reason, choose the path of deception and crime. Between---to put it bluntly---the honest man and th
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2003-12-22:
London-based journalist Cohen (Chasing the Red, White, and Blue) reports in this tight, perceptive study that crime-which has soared in the past 10 years-is now South Africa's biggest growth industry. Rather than taking a broad sociological approach, Cohen brilliantly uses one store-and its owners, customers, staff, thieves and swindlers-as a microcosm of the greater problem. Harry Sher and Jack Rubin own a furniture and appliance store on Johannesburg's Jules Street, where "crooked men thrive." The business endures armed robberies, defaulting creditors, theft by staff and a range of ingenious thievery schemes. Cohen cites the obvious reasons for the staggering crime rates, including the disparity between the haves and the have-nots (which still falls primarily along racial lines) and soaring unemployment. But Cohen, not satisfied with easy answers, persuasively contends that the problem is more complex. He argues, for instance, that South Africa had developed an apartheid township culture that saw crime (especially against whites) as honorable. More interestingly, criminal activity is not unique to the black population, a fact that Cohen makes clear through the case of Harry's younger brother, Ronny, who is fired after dipping one too many times into the company till. As a white security worker admits, "You look around in the new South Africa and you see people minting [money]. And you think-why not me?" While the book's subject may seem narrow and remote, the strength of Cohen's characterizations and narrative provide for a portrait of the new South Africa that many will find illuminating, fascinating and, sadly, universal. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
Review Quotes
"One of the most important books you will read this year." -- Sunday Times , South Africa "A perceptive and original take on the causes and consequences of South Africa's current crime wave....Social analysis with verve and insight." - -Kirkus Reviews "Acclaimed British-South African author David Cohen presents a pressing empirical question about South Africa: Just who has stolen from whom? The balance of detachment and intimacy is Cohen's greatest strength...This is not so much a book about crime as it is about relative moralities."-- This Day , South Africa "An important piece of reportage that vividly and sensitively demonstrates how difficult it is for societies, where justice has long been perverted, to change overnight. ...A comprehensive account of the current condition that also does much to explain the failing grade in crime on the national report card."-- Washington Times "Rather than taking a broad sociological approach, Cohen brilliantly uses one store-and its owners, customers, staff, thieves and swindlers-as a microcosm of the greater problem. The strength of Cohen's characterizations and narrative provide for a portrait of the new South Africa that many will find illuminating, fascinating and, sadly, universal."-- Publishers Weekly "A startlingly refreshing examination of the new South Africa's cathartic rebirth [and] one of the first books to deal with the story behind the headlines."-- South African Times , London
"One of the most important books you will read this year." --Sunday Times, South Africa "A perceptive and original take on the causes and consequences of South Africa's current crime wave....Social analysis with verve and insight." --Kirkus Reviews "Acclaimed British-South African author David Cohen presents a pressing empirical question about South Africa: Just who has stolen from whom? The balance of detachment and intimacy is Cohen's greatest strength...This is not so much a book about crime as it is about relative moralities."--This Day, South Africa "An important piece of reportage that vividly and sensitively demonstrates how difficult it is for societies, where justice has long been perverted, to change overnight. ...A comprehensive account of the current condition that also does much to explain the failing grade in crime on the national report card."--Washington Times "Rather than taking a broad sociological approach, Cohen brilliantly uses one store-and its owners, customers, staff, thieves and swindlers-as a microcosm of the greater problem. The strength of Cohen's characterizations and narrative provide for a portrait of the new South Africa that many will find illuminating, fascinating and, sadly, universal."--Publishers Weekly "A startlingly refreshing examination of the new South Africa's cathartic rebirth [and] one of the first books to deal with the story behind the headlines."--South African Times, London
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Summaries
Main Description
Brothers-in-law Harry and Jack run a Johannesburg furniture business that is being robbed repeatedly. The investigation of the crime reveals that the perpetrators lie even closer than the proprietors expected--and explores also how the social forces at work in South Africa today have made crime the country's biggest growth industry. Written on the tenth anniversary of the fall of apartheid, People Who Have Stolen From Me describes a nation in the throes of rebuilding itself, through the eyes of two witty, perceptive men.
Main Description
Brothers-in-law Harry and Jack run a Johannesburg furniture business that is being robbed repeatedly. The investigation of the crime reveals that the perpetrators lie even closer than the proprietors expected--and explores also how the social forces at work in South Africa today have made crime the country's biggest growth industry. Written on the tenth anniversary of the fall of apartheid, "People Who Have Stolen From Me" describes a nation in the throes of rebuilding itself, through the eyes of two witty, perceptive men.
Bowker Data Service Summary
While they welcome the new democracy that is South Africa today, Harry and Jack, finding succour in humour, struggle with the daily violence that is part of apartheid's legacy. Cohen spends time with the stolen-from as well as the stealers, black and white, to reveal how they justify what they do.

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