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For years, it had been what is called a “deteriorating situation.” Now all over South Africa the cities are battlegrounds. The members of the Smales family—liberal whites—are rescued from the terror by their servant, July, who leads them to refuge in his village. What happens to the Smaleses and to July—the shifts in character and relationships—gives us an unforgettable look into the terrifying, tacit understandings and misunderstandings between blacks and whites.
“So flawlessly written that every one of its events seems chillingly, ominously possible.”—Anne Tyler, The New York Times Book Review
The Nobel Laureate's psychologically penetrating story of the love affair between a rich South African and the illegal alien she "picks up" on a whim
Who picked up whom? Is the pickup the illegal immigrant desperate to evade deportation to his impoverished desert country? Or is the pickup the powerful businessman's daughter trying to escape a priveleged background she despises? When Julie Summers' car breaks down in a sleazy street, at a garage a young Arab emerges from beneath the chassis of a vehicle to aid her. The consequences develop as a story of unpredictably relentless emotions that overturn each one's notion of the other, and of the solutions life demands for different circumstances. She insists on leaving the country with him. The love affair becomes a marriage-that state she regards as a social convention appropriate to her father's set and her mother remarried in California, but decreed by her 'grease monkey' in order to present her respectably to his family.
In the Arab village, while he is dedicated to escaping, again, to what he believes is a fulfilling life in the West, she is drawn by a counter-magnet of new affinities in his close family and the omnipresence of the desert.
A novel of great power and concision, psychological surprises and unexpected developments, The Pickup is a story of the rites of passage that are emigration/immigration, where love can survive only if stripped of all certainties outside itself.
Will, the narrator of this powerfully charged novel, discovers that his father, a political activist and local hero in their South African town, has become involved with a white woman. Wrenching, passionate, deeply resonant, My Son's Story evokes the inexorable yoking of the personal life and politics with uniquely moving force.
A sharply observed new novel about post-apartheid South Africa from the Nobel Prize winner
Nadine Gordimer is one of our most telling contemporary writers. With each new work, she attacks—with a clear-eyed fierceness, a lack of sentimentality, and a deep understanding of the darkest depths of the human soul—her eternal themes: the inextricable link between personal and communal history; the inescapable moral ambiguities of daily life; the political and racial tensions that persist in her homeland, South Africa. And in each new work is fresh evidence of her literary genius: in the sharpness of her psychological insights, the stark beauty of her language, the complexity of her characters, and the difficult choices with which they are faced.
In No Time Like the Present, Gordimer trains her keen eye on Steve and Jabulile, an interracial couple living in a newly, tentatively, free South Africa. They have a daughter, Sindiswa; they move to the suburbs; Steve becomes a lecturer at a university; Jabulile trains to become a lawyer; there is another child, a boy this time. There is nothing so extraordinary about their lives, and yet, in telling their story and the stories of their friends and families, Gordimer manages to capture the tortured, fragmented essence of a nation struggling to define itself post-apartheid.
The subject is contemporary, but Gordimer's treatment is, as ever, timeless. In No Time Like the Present, she shows herself once again a master novelist, at the height of her prodigious powers.
None to Accompany Me is arresting and reverbant - perhaps the most powerful novel to date by one of the world's most commanding writers.
In an extraordinary period immediately before the first non-racial election and the beginning of majority rule in South Africa, Vera Stark, the protagonist of Nadine Gordimer's passionate novel, weaves a ruthless interpretation of her own past into her participation into the present as a lawyer representing blacks in the struggle to reclaim the land.
A selection of short stories written to date by Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer, Life Times reveals her acute understanding of human nature and paints a fascinatingly original portrait of South Africa. Whether focusing on politics, sexuality, race, love, or loss, Gordimer maps out the terrain of human relationships with razor-sharp psychological insight and a stunning lack of sentimentality. Complex and multifaceted, her stories challenge us, time and again, to examine the conflict between our actions and our unspoken desires. This powerful collection, which includes two new stories, is a testament to Gordimer's literary genius and the ongoing power and relevance of her vision.
A young man's treatment for cancer inspires profound changes in his family.
Paul Bannerman, an ecologist in South Africa, believes he understands the trajectory of his life, with the usual markers of vocation and marriage. But when he's diagnosed with thyroid cancer and, after surgery, prescribed treatment that will leave him radioactive, for a period a danger to others, he begins to question, as Auden wrote, "what Authority gives / existence its surprise."
In the garden of his childhood home, where his businessman father, Adrian, and prominent civil rights lawyer mother, Lyndsay, take him in to protect his wife and child from radiation, he enters an unthinkable existence and another kind of illumination: the contradiction between the values of his work and those of his wife, Benni, an ad agency executive. His mother is transformed by the strange state of her son's existence to face her own past. Meanwhile, projects to build a nuclear reactor and drain vital wetlands preoccupy Paul as if he were at work. By the time he is cured, both families have been changed. On his return to his home and career, his parents go to Mexico to fulfill the archaeological vocation Adrian sacrificed to support his family. The consequence of this trip is the final surprise in this extraordinary exploration of passionate individual existences.
"This novel begins superbly and ends wonderfully, and in between there are passages of high intelligence, not without Gordimer's signature asperity.” -- Ward Just, The Washington Post Book World
An extraordinary achievement, Telling Times reflects the true spirit of the writer as a literary beacon, moral activist, and political visionary.
Never before has Gordimer, awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991, published such a comprehensive collection of her nonfiction. Telling Times represents the full span of her works in that field—from the twilight of white rule in South Africa to the fight to overthrow the apartheid regime, and most recently, her role over the past seven years in confronting the contemporary phenomena of violence and the dangers of HIV.
The range of this book is staggering, and the work in totality celebrates the lively perseverance of the life-loving individual in the face of political tumult, then the onslaught of a globalized world. The abiding passionate spirit that informs “A South African Childhood,” a youthful autobiographical piece published in The New Yorker in 1954, can be found in each of the book’s ninety-one pieces that span a period of fifty-five years.
Returning to a lifetime of nonfiction work has become an extraordinary experience for Gordimer. She takes from one of her revered great writers, Albert Camus, the conviction that the writer is a “responsible human being” attuned not alone to dedication to the creation of fiction but to the political vortex that inevitably encompasses twentieth- and twenty-first-century life. Born in 1923, Gordimer, who as a child was ambitious to become a ballet dancer, was recognized at fifteen as a writing prodigy. Her sensibility was as much shaped by wide reading as it was to eye-opening sight, passing on her way to school the grim labor compounds where black gold miners lived. These twin decisives—literature and politics—infuse the book, which includes historic accounts of the political atmosphere, firsthand, after the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960 and the Soweto uprising of 1976, as well as incisive close-up portraits of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, among others. Gordimer revisits the eternally relevant legacies of Tolstoy, Proust, and Flaubert, and engages vigorously with contemporaries like Susan Sontag, Octavio Paz, and Edward Said. But some of her most sensuous writing comes in her travelogues, where the politics of Africa blend seamlessly with its awe-inspiring nature—including spectacular recollections of childhood holidays beside South Africa’s coast of the Indian Ocean and a riveting account of her journey the length of the Congo River in the wake of Conrad.
Gordimer’s body of work is an extraordinary vision of the world that harks back to the sensibilities—political, moral, and social—of Dickens and Tolstoy, but with a decidedly vivid contemporary consciousness. Telling Times becomes both a literary exploration and extraordinary document of social and political history in our times.
"You're not responsible for your ancestry, are you . . . But if that's so, why have marched under banned slogans, got yourself beaten up by the police, arrested a couple of times; plastered walls with subversive posters . . . The past is valid only in relation to whether the present recognizes it."
In this collection of new stories, Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black, Nadine Gordimer crosses the frontiers of politics, memory, sexuality, and love with the fearless insight that is the hallmark of her writing.
In the title story a middle-aged academic who had been an anti-apartheid activist embarks on an unadmitted pursuit of the possibilities for his own racial identity in his great-grandfather's fortune-hunting interlude of living rough on diamond diggings in South Africa, his young wife far away in London. "Dreaming of the Dead" conjures up a lunch in a New York Chinese restaurant where Susan Sontag and Edward Said return in surprising new avatars as guests in the dream of a loving friend. The historian in "History" is a parrot who confronts people with the scandalizing voice reproduction of quarrels and clandestine love-talk on which it has eavesdropped. "Alternative Endings" considers the way writers make arbitrary choices in how to end stories—and offers three, each relating the same situation, but with a different resolution, arrived at by the three senses: sight, sound, and smell.