What his father gets up to

Patrick Parrinder

  • My Son’s Story by Nadine Gordimer
    Bloomsbury, 277 pp, £13.99, September 1990, ISBN 0 7475 0764 3
  • Age of Iron by J.M. Coetzee
    Secker, 181 pp, £12.99, September 1990, ISBN 0 436 20012 0

A novelist’s freedom, Nadine Gordimer wrote in 1975, is ‘his right to maintain and publish to the world a deep, intense, private view of the situation in which he finds his society’. In her new novel Will, the son named by his book-loving father after William Shakespeare, describes the secret lives led by his parents. He cannot publish what he has written, partly because every other member of his Coloured family is deeply involved in revolutionary politics, and partly because – where prying and direct observation did not suffice – he has filled the multiple gaps in his story with his own words and inventions. ‘I wish I didn’t have imagination. I wish that other people’s lives were closed to me,’ Will writes.

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