From Publishers Weekly
Thirteen stories from South African Nobel Prize–winner Gordimer offer a staccato demonstration of how people's origins, inheritances and histories—and the loss of them—are inescapable. The title story centers on the white, twice-divorced academic descendant of a London diamond prospector who visits his forebear's mine in Kimberly, South Africa, and wonders about who in the township, black and white, he may be related to. The narrator of Dreaming of the Dead is haunted by famous former companions (the late intellectuals Edward Said and Susan Sontag), while the grieving widow of Allesverloren
(or All Is Lost) seeks out her husband's former lover to unearth a message from him. The daughter of A Beneficiary, meanwhile, finds an unsettling letter among the effects of her late mother, an actress. Cultural inheritance shadows the marriage of a Hungarian couple that emigrates to South Africa in Alternate Endings: Second Sense, and also the son of A Frivolous Woman, who resents his flamboyant German-Jewish émigré mother's easy adaptability. Again and again, Gordimer puts big, sweeping disasters (the Holocaust, apartheid) in the pasts of flawed, ill-equipped characters and shows how their choices have been little more than wing beats against history. The results are terrifying, sometimes acidly funny and often beautiful. (Dec.)
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Acknowledged as one of the finest writers of the 20th century, Nadine Gordimer has received dozens of her cultures highest honors, including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991 and, most recently, Frances Legion of Honor in 2007. Her latest collection departs from her traditional themes of politics and race and explores the individuals sense of self and relationship to history, as well as the art of story writing itself. While critics praised some stories, such as the title story and "Allesverloren," they criticized others, including "Tape Measure" and a story about a parrot who spills secrets. Reviewers gave Gordimer lukewarm praise for her daring experimentation, but they cited some of her stories as slight. Though uneven, the collection still gives nod to Gordimers great literary talent.Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.