Saturday, April 26, 2008

Nadine Gordimer

Nadine Gordimer is a South African writer, political activist and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991. Her writing has long dealt with moral and racial issues, particularly apartheid in South Africa. She was active in the anti-apartheid movement, joining the African National Congress during the days when the organization was banned. She has recently been active in HIV/AIDS causes.

The sixteen stories in this collection, like most of Gordimer’s work, take readers beneath the surface and cliches, beyond news reports, international maneuvering, and daily violence to the hearts of those who suffer from, fight against, tolerate, ignore, or promote the injustices of apartheid.

The title story, Jump is about rites of passage. A safe house holds a willing confessor (the public head of a rebel organization) to the atrocities of a regime planning to bring down, or destabilize, the legitimate black government. He has long since outlived his usefulness, as he's repeated his story again and again to the world's press, publicly explaining the questions about why he finance a brutal campaign that tried to overthrow the government, and why he supported a secret army that burned villages, killed indiscriminately. His answer, painfully related, is the horror story that is Jump. Heading up the rebel army, he saw the conflict for his country in terms of pins pushed forward on a map, in euphemisms that disguised the reality of the bloody and brutal conflict.

Gordimer accomplishes several things in this story. She draws a parallel between the rite of passage inherent in making a first jump in parachute school, and that of ending his life after unburdening a soul ravaged by the knowledge of what had been done to people in his name. The irony of his final jump would be that he would be jumping into the midst of a ghetto, filled with children made orphans, and men and women who bore the physical and mental scars of years of internal conflict, made possible by him.

The other
stories in this volume are about the various ways such as change, acceptance, avoidance in which individuals cope with the society they live in.

I strongly recommend this book. It is an excellent read and I can see why Gordimer is so deserving of the Nobel Prize.

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