… has died.

In the town where I lived, there was no mental food … at all. I’m often amazed to think how they live, those people, and what an oppressed life it must be, because human beings must live in the world of ideas. This dimension in the human psyche is very important. It was there, but they didn’t know how to express it. Conversation consisted of trivialities. For women, household matters, problems with children. The men would talk about golf or business or horse racing or whatever their practical interests were. Nobody ever talked about, or even around, the big things — life and death. The whole existential aspect of life was never discussed. I, of course, approached it through books. Thought about it on my own. It was as secret as it would have been to discuss my parents’ sex life. It was something so private, because I felt that there was nobody with whom I could talk about these things, just nobody. But then, of course, when I was moving around at university, my life changed.

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4 Responses to “Nadine Gordimer…”

  1. Michael Tinkler Says:

    There you go. It’s like discussing your parents’ sex life. They might well have discussed their sex life with each other – they just didn’t feel it was appropriate to share it with you. I wonder what Gordimer would have found as a life-long adult in her original community?

    I’ve found on a number of occasions that older people were sparing me their inwardness until I was old enough to deal with it. One of the inherent problems of moving away at 17 or 18 is that you never really know your home town the way the people who stay do. There’s a lot that can be encoded in talk about children and golf. Local school policy and water rights, for example – things that 15 year olds don’t necessarily cotton onto.

    My favorite examples of fiction writers who did come home or stay or whatever are both considered writers of wildly unreliable narrators – Eudora Welty and Walker Percy (Flannery O’Connor is actually a producer of unreliable narrators – wonderful stuff, but not particularly reliable). Gordimer? Who knows.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Michael: Yes. Maybe Gordimer’s right that they really had no inner lives, but of course she’s probably terribly wrong. Terribly impatient and imperceptive.

    I think comments like hers are interesting as examples of how certain people break away from their roots. It sometimes feels like a rather crude maneuver: In order to make a clean (violent?) break, you’ve sort of got to cast the embodiments of your past as irredeemable in some fundamental way…

  3. Van L. Hayhow Says:

    Interesting posts.

  4. charlie Says:

    College isn’t as it was back in Gordimer’s time, much of the student body was lured to University of Oregon, and at many other unis, by the promise of a damn good time, including sports. I didn’t know her, but I highly doubt that Gordimer attended her university because she saw the school’s football team on cable….

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