Nadine Gordimer was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991. Her latest novel, No Time Like the Present, was published in March.
 (May 2012)

South Africa: The New Threat to Freedom

A vigil against South Africa’s Secrecy Bill in front of Parliament, Cape Town, September 2011
In the new South Africa that was reborn in the early 1990s, with its freedom hard-won from apartheid, we now have the imminent threat of updated versions of the suppression of freedom of expression that gagged us under apartheid. The right to know must continue to accompany the right to vote that black, white, and any other color of our South African population could all experience for the first time in 1994. But since 2010 there have been two parliamentary bills introduced that seek to deny that right: the Protection of State Information Bill and the Media Tribunal.

Adam’s Rib

What writer of fiction has not been affronted, when faced with journalists asking on which living personage this or that character is based? What writer has not read, in a review of her or his book, that so-and-so is a portrait of such and such, and what writer has not …

The Empire of Joseph Roth

JOSEPH ROTH’S MAJOR WORKS Published During His Lifetime Hotel Savoy (1924) Die Rebellion (1924) Die Flucht Ohne Ende (1927) Zipper und sein Vater (1928) Rechts und Links (1929) Der stumme Prophet (1929) (fragment in Die Neue Rundschau) Hiob (1930) Radetzkymarsch (1932) Stationschef Fallmerayer (1933) Tarabas, ein Gast aud dieser Erde …

The Gap Between the Writer and the Reader

When I am asked that interviewer’s stock in trade, “For whom do you write?” I reply irritably, “For anyone who reads me.” The question is crass, giving away the press’s assumption that a writer, like itself, presumes “audience potential.” It seems typical of one of the anti-art tenets of commercialism: …

The Just Cause

Joseph Lelyveld had been the New York Times man in South Africa for only eleven months when, in 1966, the South African government served him with notice to leave within a week. For the next decade, that government was to bar entry to New York Times correspondents. When Lelyveld boarded …

The Idea of Gardening

Allegory is generally regarded as a superior literary form. It is thought to clear the reader’s lungs of the transient and fill them with a deep breath of transcendence. Man becomes Everyman (that bore). From the writer’s point of view, allegory is no more than one among other forms. But …

Living in the Interregnum

I live at 6,000 feet in a society whirling, stamping, swaying with the force of revolutionary change. The vision is heady; the image of the demonic dance is accurate, not romantic: an image of actions springing from emotion, knocking deliberation aside. The city is Johannesburg, the country South Africa, and the time the last years of the colonial era in Africa.

The Child Is the Man

It is not always possible to find the child again. Proust did, not only by reason of his genius but because the emotional force of the child-parent relationship was never exceeded by any other in his strange life. In this sense, he was never looking back; the child Marcel was …

Mysterious Incest

What do you expect from an autobiography? Those who write them are as uncertain as those who publish them. They don’t even use the term, any longer. Czeslaw Milosz subtitled his a search for self-definition; Sartre, endowed by nature with the physical possibility of never looking anyone in the eye, …

Letter from the 153rd State

“We have to succeed in our bid to establish a non-racial society, in our bid to establish civil liberties…. Once the reconciliation between the races is complete, once we have the opposing forces in harmony, then whatever the differences in the political sphere we will, at least, have that oneness …

Letter from South Africa

I flew out of Johannesburg on a visit abroad two and a half months after the first black school child was killed by a police bullet in Soweto. Since June 16, when the issue of protest against the use of the Afrikaans language as a teaching medium in black schools, …