Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tuesday Tomes - Life Stories

I started a new book on Sunday afternoon, Life Times: Stories (1952-2007), by Nadine Gordimer. A South African writer, political activist, and Nobel Prize recipient, Gordimer, was born in 1923 in a small-mining town 30 miles from Johannesburg, and grew up in South Africa. She was the daughter of a British mother and a Lithuanian father.

I'm very sorry to say that I had not known of Gordimer or her writing until I heard of her death just two Sundays ago on July 13. The flood of stories and remembrances of her life in the wake of her death were so ubiquitous and interesting, it was baffling to me how I could have never heard of her before. After hearing John Hockenberry's words on The Takeaway, an interview by Terry Gross on Fresh Air, and a remembrance by Scott Simon on Weekend Edition, I knew I had to get a book and start reading.

A collection of her stories seemed like a perfect place to start. In a review of Life Times, Alan Cheuse, who teaches writing at George Mason University said, "This superb collection, almost 600 pages long, gives us a series of masterly drawn glimpses into the story-making art of one of Africa's great modern literary geniuses and gives us an intimate glance into the hearts and souls of dozens and dozens of her fellow strife-torn and struggling fellow Africans of all shades and tribes."

Here is the beginning of Scott Simon's remembrance...
In Writing: Nadine Gordimer Explored Why We're All Here
"I am not a political person by nature," Nadine Gordimer once said. "I don't suppose, if I had lived elsewhere, my writing would have reflected politics."

Gordimer was born in South Africa in the early 1920s, into a society divided and identified by the crime of apartheid. Official racial segregation and suppression was wound into everyday life.

Her mother mostly kept her home from school, so Gordimer began to write for companionship. She published her first short story in The Children's Sunday Express when she was 15 years old, and essentially wrote for a living until her death this week, at the age of 90.

Nadine Gordimer wrote 15 novels, a few of which were banned by the South African government, and when one of her short stories appeared in a British or U.S. magazine that reached South Africa, officials ripped out her pages.

The suppression intended to silence her and millions more only galvanized Nadine Gordimer...

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