Nadine Gordimer was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1991. She has written fourteen novels, nine volumes of short stories, and three nonfiction collections.
She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. To me her books have been the voice of that troubled country; first, as it struggled through years of apartheid, and now, as it navigates the tensions and adjustments of the post apartheid period.
Sitting down with this large (549 pages) book of short stories is like having a box of candy beside you. You choose one, then another, and another, and you can’t stop reading on. Sometimes it is the title that intrigues you: The Soft Voice of the Serpent, The Smell of Death and Flowers, Why Haven’t You Written?
Turn the page and you find yourself with a couple on their weekend, almost suburban farm, having suddenly to arrange for the burial of an unknown Rhodesian boy, son of one of their workers.
At a party, Gordimer points out a girl with flickering mascaraed eyelashes; a man with gingerish whiskers and flattened ears who looks like an angry tomcat; a girl sitting on the windowsill silent, pink and cold as a porcelain figurine.
There is Mrs. Bamjee, an Indian, arrested for running a duplicating machine, printing pamphlets urging blacks to burn passes the law says they must carry.
The Blacks, the Coloureds, the Boers, the English, those resenting the new freedoms, and those eagerly though awkwardly embracing them crowd the pages of this book. Nadine Gordimer’s elegant prose places us in the swirling center of South Africa.
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