Ms. Gordimer was lucky or so powerful that she was never detained or persecuted for her work despite her writing openly about the ruling repressive regime. She had a unique ability to slip inside a life completely different from her own background or social milieu beyond the borders of white and black to explore other cultures under the boot of apartheid. In the 1983 short story "A Chip of Glass Ruby," she entered an Indian Muslim household.
My favorite of her works was "The Pickup." It appeared in 2001 when I was posted in the Arab country. In this magnum opus she had ventured into a difficult Arab complex culture. It is the story of the love affair between two individuals from vastly different backgrounds. Julie, a young woman from a wealthy, upper class white family in Johannesburg, picks up Ibrahim, an illegal immigrant from an unnamed Arabic country, in the garage where Ibrahim works.
The affair starts as a casual pickup, and later evolves into a complicated relationship which has great influence on them and leads them to new directions none of them have expected. She had also won the Booker Prize in 1974 for "The Conservationist," which had a white male protagonist.
One article can't do justice to even an iota of her great works. She wrote great novels, great short stories that were the product of piercing indulgence, personal experience, sincere and honest reflection of what she thought and what she envisioned. As she wrote in one of her essay: "On the contrary it was learning to write that sent me falling, falling through the surface of the South African way of life."
Nadine Gordimer was born to Jewish immigrant parents on Nov. 20, 1923, in Springs, a mining town in the Transvaal. Her father, Isidore Gordimer, was a poor watchmaker who had migrated from Lithuania to South Africa. Her mother, the former Nan Myers, had come with her family from Britain and never stopped thinking of it as home. It was an unhappy marriage and the memories of her childhood haunted Nadine's work in different ways.
In 1949 Ms. Gordimer married a dentist, Gerald Gavron, and they had a daughter, Oriane. The marriage ended in divorce in 1952. Two years later she married Reinhold H. Cassirer, an art dealer who had fled Nazi Germany and was a nephew of the philosopher Ernst Cassirer. Their son, Hugo, was born in 1955. Reinhold Cassirer died in 2001. Her son and her daughter survive her. She did rarely shared little about her personal life in interviews. Journalists commonly noted her impatience with certain personal questions, sometimes describing her response as disdainful and irritable.
To conclude, I would add what she wrote in 1975 in the introduction to her "Selected Stories": "The tension between standing apart and being fully involved; that is what makes a writer. That is where we begin."
Though Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Oliver Goldsmith and some more were my favorite writers, I found a whiff of fresh air whenever I tumbled upon a book of Nadine Gordimer.
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