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Twenty-two-year-old Etienne is studying film in London, having fled conscription in his native South Africa. It is 1986, the time of Thatcher, anti-apartheid campaigns and Aids, but also of postmodern art, post-punk rock, and Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Adrift in a city cast in shadow, he falls in love with a German artist while living in derelict artists’ communes. When Etienne finds the first of three reels of a German film from the 1930s, he begins searching for the missing reels, a project that turns into an obsession when his lover disappears in Berlin. It is while navigating this city divided by the Wall that Etienne gradually pieces together the history of a small group of Jewish film makers in Nazi Germany. It is a desperate quest amid complications that pull him back to the present and to South Africa. However, his search for the missing film continues. Ambitious and cosmopolitan, the material of SJ Naude’s The Third Reel is as disparate as the cities in which the book is set. Architecture, cinematography, sex, music, illness, loss and love all collide in this exquisitely wrought, deeply affecting novel.
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