A Spy in Time

Award-winning South African novelist Imraan Coovadia tells the story of a fledgling temporal secret agent named Enver Eleven. Enver teams up with a new handler, Shanumi Six, on a vital mission to preserve humanity’s legacy.

In Enver Eleven’s city, fair-skinned people are a rarity and have been for centuries. They work as acrobats and jugglers or apply skin-darkening creams to conceal their condition. Johannesburg is the city that survived the end of the world thanks to the shelter provided by the thousands of miles of mining tunnels running beneath it. It’s Enver’s job at the Agency to make sure that the end of the world doesn’t come again. He and his mentor, Shanumi Six, specialize in the hot spots of the twentieth century—Marrakech, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo—where they travel in search of an elusive enemy, guided by the collective intelligence of the Agency’s thinking machines which limit time travel to the bare minimum. When Shanumi vanishes on an 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.

Praise for the work of Imraan Coovadia


“Both hilarious and heartbreaking, this is a story of love and loathing at first sight.”

“As soon as one reads the first few pages of South African novelist Coovadia’s premier novel, the cadences of Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy immediately come to mind.”
—Library Journal


“The collected stories structure recalls David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten, or Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad. As a character says early on, ‘We get most of our energy from complications.’ These complications rapidly pile up, resulting in a layered, multifaceted narrative.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Using the transition to the metric system as both the catalyst and symbol for radical change, Coovadia places his characters in a historical context that explains their triumphs and shortcomings without offering excuses.”
—World Literature Today

“Imraan Coovadia is one of the best novelists to come out of South Africa in a long time. His prose is charming, clever and sly. A must read.”
—Gary Shteyngart


Author: Imraan Coovadia

Imraan Coovadia (born 1970) has become one of the most prominent and innovative writers in South Africa. He has won the Sunday Times Fiction Prize, The University of Johannesburg Prize, the M-Net Prize and has been shortlisted for the Ama-Boeke Prize (2003) and the IMPAC Dublin International Literary Award. He is the director of the creative writing program at the University of Cape Town and is a regular contributor to various newspapers, journals and magazines such as N+1, Agni, The New York Times, Boston Globe, Times of India, and South Africa’s The Mail and Guardian and Sunday Independent. His writing has been the focus of a 2016 special issue of the scholarly journal Current Writing.