Betrayals of the Body Politic: The Literary Commitments of Nadine Gordimer

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University of Virginia Press, 1993 - Literary Criticism - 150 pages
In 1991, Nadine Gordimer was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Infused with the intensity of political conscience and commitment, her writings are invaluable illuminations of life in South Africa during the latter half of the twentieth century. But they are also works of art, and they illustrate that art and commitment need not be antithetical. This is the first study to approach Gordimer from an analysis of the major thematic motifs and concerns that have characterized her writing throughout her career. Andrew Vogel Ettin draws on all of her writings to date - 10 novels, over 200 short stories, more than 50 essays, and a number of interviews. Beginning with the concept that consciousness of one's social identity is an inescapable fact for anyone living in South Africa, Ettin then explores issues of betrayal, the politics of the family, the concept of home and homeland, and problems of ethnicity and feminism. He examines the connection between the personal and the political, showing that Gordimer has always seen the two as inseparable, and that her understanding of this relationship has developed profoundly during her career. Though the book is not biographical, it explores more fully than any preceding publication Gordimer's attitudes toward feminism and her connections with her Jewish background, thereby expanding our comprehension of her social context. Ettin includes a succinct overview of her career and devotes each of six chapters to a major theme, tracing and analyzing the themes as they recur in selected stories, novels, essays, and interview reflections, and as they have emerged in relation to circumstances of her own life. The author sees Gordimer's work as a tool not ofpropaganda but of understanding, a means of sharpening our perceptions of one another's lives. The thoughtful and sympathetic readings offered here, as well as the clarity and accessibility of Ettin's style, make this book an indispensable addition to the relatively small body of criticism devoted to Gordimer.

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About the author (1993)

Andrew Vogel Ettin is Professor of English at Wake Forest University. He is author of Literature and the Pastoral.

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