Book Review: Nadine Gordimer's 'Life Times'
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
The Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer has long used her writing to explore and to celebrate her native South Africa. Out now is a new collection of her short fiction spanning nearly six decades. It's called "Life Times, Stories, 1952-2007."
Alan Cheuse has this review.
ALAN CHEUSE: Nearly 90 years old now, Gordimer began publishing stories in the late 1940s. Among the more than three dozen stories collected in "Life Times," you'll find a stylistic range from longer, more leisurely, realistic tales to the short short and decidedly more experimental stories.
I really enjoyed the extremes - from the realistic novellas such as "Something Out There," a brilliant kaleidoscopic portrait of life in the midst of apartheid, to the brief intense portraits of people caught deep in the midst of their lives such as in the at first plainspoken story called "The Bride Groom." This tells us about a young Afrikaner road construction boss gathering his life together in preparation for marriage.
Toward the end of it, this character witnesses an impromptu evening of music by his work crew and the story touches on the sublime. The lyre player picked up his flimsy piece of wood, Gordimer writes, and slowly, what the young man was feeling inside himself seemed to find a voice. Up into the night beyond the fire it went, uncoiling from his breast and bringing ease, as if it had been made audible out of infinity and could be returned to infinity at any point.
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.
BLOCK: The book is "Life Times, Stories, 1952-2007" from Nadine Gordimer. Alan Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University at Fairfax, Virginia.
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