Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Truth That Is Nadine Gordimer

Nobel Laureate and political activist, Nadine Gordimer is one of South Africa's best writers whose work I first encountered in university and have not stopped reading since. If you're looking for insight into the lives of ordinary people during the apartheid days I'd recommend The Conservationist, July's People (my fav'rit!) and The Burger's Daughter. Of course Nadine Gordimer's but one writer in a sea of many fine, accomplished South African writers but since this post is about her, I might as well point you to her good stuff. Below, are the best bits from an interview in which she spits some truth about democracy, Zimbabwe and Mandela :

Of South Africa: "We are still in the morning after. I cannot emphasis strongly enough, we have had 16 years [since democratic elections]. That's all. Sixteen years. It's not even a generation. And here you, in Britain and America, have had hundreds of years of working towards democracy, and it's still not perfect; you've still got poor people, you've still got xenophobia. But we're expected to have done it in 16 years."

...When Gordimer met Robert Mugabe, not long after he came to power, she thought "he really seemed to be a good man. It's the old thing of absolute power corrupts. He seems to have gone a little mad. And I also blame the wives. Very often the wives of these people become the world's biggest shoppers; including his. His first wife was a good influence, but this one comes to one of the biggest hotels in Johannesburg, brings her entourage, she shops like mad. She's also been to Dubai to shop. While all these people are starving." 
What does she think will happen when Mandela dies? "I can only compare it to the 27 years he was in prison; stone walls do not a prison make. Mandela was with us when he was in prison. And in a strange way, Mandela will be with us when he's dead and gone. I don't know how long that will last. But he will become more of an icon, just as Mahatma Gandhi did."
...The fiction might be what matters, says Gordimer, but it is the deeds of her life by which she wants to be judged. "That through the way you lived your life as a human being, rather than what you did as a writer, you could earn your way to being an African. I am an African. I am white. I in my humble way, and others in their much more brave way, have earned that right. Nothing else."

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