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Stony Ground

Peter D. McDonald: J.M. Coetzee, 20 October 2005

J.M. Coetzee and the Ethics of Reading: Literature in the Event 
by Derek Attridge.
Chicago, 225 pp., £13.50, May 2005, 0 226 03117 9
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Slow Man 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Secker, 265 pp., £16.99, September 2005, 0 436 20611 0
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... but chary review of The Life and Times of Michael K (1983) in the New York Review of Books, Nadine Gordimer wrote about J.M. Coetzee’s ‘conscious choice’ of allegory as a literary mode in his first three novels. The reasons for this, she speculated, were temperamental: It seemed he did so out of a kind of opposing desire to hold himself ...


Julian Barnes: On the Booker, 12 November 1987

... plough through these three bodice-rippers from Rudland and Stubbs, but call in Anita Brookner or Nadine Gordimer? No, no, we won’t do that, even if they have won the prize before. More than an abnegation of responsibility, this displayed a singular lack of curiosity. And while the judges annually complain about the great burden of reading placed upon ...


Hilary Mantel, 13 May 1993

Mary Renault: A Biography 
by David Sweetman.
Chatto, 352 pp., £18, April 1993, 0 7011 3568 9
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... is unnecessarily defensive. There was much sense in her views, even if they were not those held by Nadine Gordimer. When she first lived in South Africa, she was naive. Later, perhaps, she was desolated. Her best novels are written with a kind of appalled pity for the human condition; but in her last book, Funeral Games, there is simply a dry-eyed ...

Capital W, Capital W

Michael Wood: Women writers, 19 August 1999

Women Writers at Work 
edited by George Plimpton.
Harvill, 381 pp., £9.99, February 1999, 1 86046 586 2
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Just as I Thought 
by Grace Paley.
Virago, 332 pp., £8.99, August 1999, 1 86049 696 2
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... Moore, Katherine Anne Porter, Rebecca West, P.L. Travers, Simone de Beauvoir, Elizabeth Bishop, Nadine Gordimer and Anne Sexton, who appear in the volume alongside the writers already mentioned – is that they are not men, which is not as tautological a proposition as it looks. Being a woman writer is only partly a matter of how any writing woman ...

Siding with Rushdie

Christopher Hitchens, 26 October 1989

The Rushdie File 
edited by Lisa Appignanesi and Sara Maitland.
Fourth Estate/ICA, 268 pp., £5.95, July 1989, 0 947795 84 7
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CounterBlasts No 4: Sacred Cows 
by Fay Weldon.
Chatto, 43 pp., £2.99, July 1989, 0 7011 3556 5
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Salman Rushdie and the Third World: Myths of the Nation 
by Timothy Brennan.
Macmillan, 203 pp., £29.50, September 1989, 0 333 49020 7
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... rare for the apartheid state to try and oblige any of its non-white minorities in this way, but as Nadine Gordimer pointed out, the Islamic leadership does agree to sit in the phoney ‘Chamber’ that is reserved for those who are not quite white and yet not African. I suppose John Berger might find something colonial in Ms ...


Elizabeth Lowry: Binyavanga Wainaina, 23 February 2012

One Day I Will Write about This Place 
by Binyavanga Wainaina.
Granta, 256 pp., £15.99, November 2011, 978 1 84708 021 9
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... door locked and the curtains drawn, eating pilchards from the tin while reading Saul Bellow and Nadine Gordimer, restocking addictively on books at a second-hand bookshop. Although his degree is a dead end, he finds his stay in South Africa, in the aftermath of apartheid, liberating. Throughout the book the political context is handled ...

Pale Ghosts

Jeremy Harding, 12 January 1995

The Electronic Elephant: A Southern African Journey 
by Dan Jacobson.
Hamish Hamilton, 373 pp., £17.99, June 1994, 0 241 13355 6
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Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela 
Little, Brown, 630 pp., £20, November 1994, 0 316 90965 3Show More
None to Accompany Me 
by Nadine Gordimer.
Bloomsbury, 324 pp., £15.99, September 1994, 0 7475 1821 1
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The Rift: The Exile Experience of South Africans 
by Hilda Bernstein.
Cape, 516 pp., £25, February 1994, 0 224 03546 0
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... That has always been my greatest regret, and the most painful aspect of the choice I made.’ Nadine Gordimer’s novel is set in the period after Mandela’s release. It is about homecoming and transition. The heroine, Vera Stark, who works for a progressive legal foundation, is not an exile as such, but she has lived at a distance from ...

Flying the flag

Patrick Parrinder, 18 November 1993

The Modern British Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 512 pp., £20, October 1993, 0 436 20132 1
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After the War: The Novel and English Society since 1945 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 310 pp., £17.99, September 1993, 9780701137694
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... to as ‘the Trinidadian novelist’. This might place him with such non-British writers as Nadine Gordimer and Patrick White, but he is later included in Bradbury’s alphabetical checklist of British novelists since 1876. It looks as if an adverse judgment has been passed by default. It is not that Bradbury shies away from evaluative ...

Like a Dog

Elizabeth Lowry: J.M. Coetzee, 14 October 1999

by J.M. Coetzee.
Secker, 220 pp., £14.99, July 1999, 0 436 20489 4
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The Lives of Animals 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Princeton, 127 pp., £12.50, May 1999, 0 691 00443 9
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... duck the issue? Most English-language prose writers in South Africa, from Olive Schreiner through Nadine Gordimer and André Brink to Mongane Serote, have tried to reconcile these conflicting claims, the claims of history and fiction, by writing in the realist mode. When Coetzee began to write, in the Seventies, he was one of the first South African ...

Fear in the Miracle Nation

R.W. Johnson, 2 November 1995

The Liberal Slideaway 
by Jill Wentzel.
South African Institute of Race Relations, 430 pp., R 59.99, October 1995, 0 86982 445 7
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... and even impede ‘the cultural struggle’, so pressure was suddenly exerted to disband PEN, with Nadine Gordimer, among others, arguing that it was ‘the wrong historical moment’ for intraracial collaboration. About turn, salute, redirect moral passion at 180 degrees. The same thing happened with sport: first, a mighty campaign for multiracial ...

Hourglass or Penny-Farthing?

Christopher Tayler: Damon Galgut, 31 July 2014

Arctic Summer 
by Damon Galgut.
Atlantic, 357 pp., £17.99, May 2014, 978 0 85789 718 3
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... to his handling of the cold, controlled tones and ominous historic present associated with Nadine Gordimer and J.M. Coetzee. Early on, Galgut’s use of these tones could be too homageful. ‘My name is James. I can’t help that,’ the narrator says in one of the stories in Small Circle of Beings (1988). (Coetzee’s first novel begins: ‘My ...

In a Cold Country

Michael Wood: Coetzee’s Grumpy Voice, 4 October 2007

Diary of a Bad Year 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill, 231 pp., £16.99, September 2007, 978 1 84655 120 8
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Inner Workings: Essays 2000-2005 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill, 304 pp., £17.99, March 2007, 978 1 84655 045 4
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... Schulz, Joseph Roth, W.G. Sebald. The method is less biographical for Saul Bellow, Graham Greene, Nadine Gordimer and others, and a long, frosty essay on Walter Benjamin engages crucial concepts thoroughly and ends in a magnificent, if ambiguous tribute: ‘From a distance, Benjamin’s magnum opus’ – The Arcades Project – ‘is curiously ...

The African University

Mahmood Mamdani, 19 July 2018

... as well as a cohort of South African writers who were wrestling with apartheid, among them Nadine Gordimer, Ezekiel Mphelele, Dennis Brutus and Lewis Nkosi.From the start, Transition had commissioned work from political figures. In the second issue, in 1961, Julius Nyerere published a defence of the one-party system that would soon exasperate so ...

Tables and Chairs

Christopher Tayler: J.M. Coetzee, 21 March 2013

J.M. Coetzee: A Life in Writing 
by J.C. Kannemeyer, translated by Michiel Heyns.
Jonathan Ball, 710 pp., R 325, October 2012, 978 1 86842 495 5
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Here and Now: Letters 2008-11 
by Paul Auster and J.M. Coetzee.
Viking, 256 pp., $27.95, March 2013, 978 0 670 02666 1
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The Childhood of Jesus 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill Secker, 210 pp., £16.99, March 2013, 978 1 84655 769 9
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... His unease with what was expected of ‘committed’ writers in late apartheid South Africa caused Nadine Gordimer to speak of his work’s ‘stately fastidiousness’, and it was plain long before Disgrace (1999) that he felt no duty of optimism towards the democratised state. Outside South Africa, meanwhile, his media non-appearances were received as ...

Sing like Parrots

Adewale Maja-Pearce: Ngugi wa Thiong’o, 15 December 2016

Birth of a Dream Weaver: A Writer’s Awakening 
by Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
Harvill Secker, 256 pp., £14.99, November 2016, 978 1 84655 989 1
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... out long before the end of the colonial era, as modernity closed in. And what of writers like Nadine Gordimer or Mia Couto, writing only in a European language? Are we meant to dismiss them as non-Africans? Ngugi’s real objection is to the power and prestige of European languages, and the way teachers hammered them into their pupils. He also ...

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