Nadine Gordimer | Critical Review by George Kearns

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Nadine Gordimer.
This section contains 547 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by George Kearns

Critical Review by George Kearns

SOURCE: A review of Something Out There, in The Hudson Review, Vol. XXXVII, No. 4, Winter, 1984–85, pp. 619-21.

In the following excerpt, Kearns discusses the politics of Gordimer's fiction in Something Out There.

… Nadine Gordimer's Something Out There is a collection of nine short stories and the title piece, a long novella that might have had greater impact if published separately. Gordimer is a writer of political fiction whose assurance has become finer with time. Her South Africa is a country torn apart not by "racial problems" or "terrorism," but by what she wants us to know is nothing less than civil war. Lush patches of safety in this battlefield are supported by a "grand illusion," and are under attack from enemies within and without. It is a country from which so many have "skipped"—a word with reverberations: "This one or that has skipped; the laconic phrase contains, for all this generation of South Africans in the know, dumped by their elders with the deadly task of defending a life they haven't chosen for themselves, the singular heritage of their whiteness." This writer is unconcerned with distancing her views by ascribing them, even nominally, to some stand-in or narrator. Nor do drama and conflict have to be devised: they are inherent in a place where everything is visibly dramatic and political, at least to Gordimer's fine eye for detail—every nuance of speech, every choice of dress is necessarily charged with irony. In the title story, for example, Joy, a white revolutionary, is caught in a delicate crisis when she must deal with a black visitor who is capable of blowing the cover she's providing for two black terrorists:

Joy slept in an outsize T-shirt; she put her Indian skirt over it and went out into the yard with the right amount of white madam manner, not enough to be too repugnant to her, not too little to seem normal to the former Kleynhans laborer.

—Yes? Do you want something?—

Mild as her presence was, it clamped him by the leg; caught there, he took of his hat and greeted her in Afrikaans.—More missus, more missus.—

She changed to Afrikaans, too.—What is it you want here?… They knew exactly how to lie to each other.

Gordimer supplies some views of the lives and thoughts of her conservative/reactionary fellow citizens, and of the merely bewildered, but the characters she's most interested in, clearly, are those whites who fall within a range closer to her own polities, and the blacks and coloreds whose lives provide not even an illusion of refuge from politics. She is writing for her countrymen today, and for the world today; she is also preserving, in a society where truth is more than ordinarily manufactured and suppressed, a record for the future of what it felt like to be a South African now, of what people said, of how they behaved. It's that part of the record only art can preserve. Gordimer is aware of every problem writing political fiction poses, as she showed in her supportive, but tortured and tortuous recent review of the South African J. M. Coetzee's The Life and Times of Michael K. Her own decisions as a writer are clear and, in what she writes, brave. She's willing to sacrifice transcendence….

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This section contains 547 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by George Kearns
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