Nadine Gordimer | Critical Review by Dick Roraback

This literature criticism consists of approximately 3 pages of analysis & critique of Nadine Gordimer.
This section contains 764 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Dick Roraback

Critical Review by Dick Roraback

SOURCE: "Gordimer Is in the Details," in Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 6, 1991, pp. 2, 10.

In the following review, Roraback notes the freshness of the themes in Jump, despite their familiarity.

Nadine Gordimer takes you by the hand. Sometimes she leads you gently. Sometimes, impatient, she yanks. Come, she says, there are things I want you to see.

We've been over Gordimer turf before. We know the field is not level. As always, there are salients of insensitivity, injustice, inhumanity—apartheid. After so many tours, can there be something we missed?

There can. There is [in Jump]. Our cicerone knows where the real stuff is—new insights, apercus, epiphanies, buried under layers of complacency. She knows where to dig.

As the conscience of the white South African, Gordimer could be expected to pause here and there to pontificate. Instead, in the best African tradition, she favors the role of a griot, a storyteller, who encourages her auditors to draw their own conclusions from the behavior of the characters she conjures up out of an endless imagination.

Here, in "My Father Leaves Home," we are introduced to an impoverished and persecuted Eastern European youth who migrates to Africa, where he discovers that no matter how humble one's origins, white makes right. There, in "Keeping Fit," we meet his foil, a well-to-do white jogger who strays into the teeming shantytown across the highway. Abruptly, he finds himself a cipher, generic, "only another white man, no other identity, no other way to be known." They all look the same.

In "The Ultimate Safari," the very young and very old of a village are forced by strife to leave and traverse a vast game reserve to gain safe haven with another branch of their tribe. Creation of the park—"the place where white people come to look at the animals"—has arbitrarily split the tribal homeland, and as a small girl, ravenous, trudges through the reserve, she cannot help but note that "the animals ate, ate all the time … and there was nothing for us."

In another game park, this one private, weekend guests, leaving a cozy campfire, are driven by an African servant to watch, in something approaching awe, as lions feast on a fresh-killed zebra. The balance of nature is served when the driver hacks off a cut of loin, a small one: "The lions know I must take a piece for me because I find where their meat is. But if I take too much they know it also. Then they will take one of my children."

As in any well-planned tour, there are side trips—to London, where an intensely quiet Arab radical lures a commonplace Cockney girl to the ultimate betrayal; and, in blessed comic relief, to an English seaside resort where "a man who had had bad luck with women" finds a valuable ring, advertises in Lost and Found, and is braced by a beautiful claimant who couldn't possibly have lost it.

There are O. Henry endings that would make the master curl his toes in glee (the last four words of "The Moment Before the Gun Went Off" hit like a sledge). And there is even a parable.

The island of "Teraloyna," whose original shipwrecked inhabitants have dispersed generations ago—some now white, some black, some "colored"—is now overrun by descendants of two imported cats. A planeload of young soldiers, one of distant Teraloynan heritage, is dispatched to get rid of the pests. "He is going home to the island. He is looking forward to the [fun] he and his mates will have, the beer they will drink, and the prey they will pursue—this time grey, striped, ginger, piebald, tabby, black, white—all colours, abundant targets, didn't matter which, kill, kill them all."

In this tour de force don't be afraid that you may misunderstand the guide. Gordimer is multilingual. She can speak male and female, young and old, black and white, and ginger, piebald, tabby.

Her voice is that of a Siren, simple words arranged like flowers, or embers:

—"The hyenas with their backs that sloped as if they were ashamed."

—"He went to the compounds where black miners had proudly acquired watches as the manacles of their new slavery."

—"Schoolgirls tramped onto the bus with their adolescent female odours and the pop of gum blown between their lips like the text balloons in comics."

—"We wanted to go away from where our mother wasn't and where we were hungry. We wanted to go where there were no bandits and there was food. We were glad to think there must be such a place; away."

These are Gordimer's tales. Go with her; there are things to see.

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This section contains 764 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Dick Roraback
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