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Justin Cartwright Speaks to an “Alarmingly Insubstantial” Nadine Gordimer

Other People's MoneyNo Time Like the PresentJustin Cartwright recently interviewed fellow South African born novelist Nadine Gordimer, who lived just two streets down from him while he was growing up in Johannesburg.

In the interview, published in The Telegraph, Cartwright reveals that he feels strangely protective of the Nobel laureate, who turned 88 in November last year and recently released her 15th novel. While she is “still very beautiful”, he writes, “she appears alarmingly insubstantial, almost weightless”:

She is very small and at 88, still very beautiful but she appears alarmingly insubstantial, almost weightless. Absurdly, I feel protective of Nadine Gordimer. When I was growing up in Johannesburg, she lived just two streets away; the penumbra of her fame fell on our small house, lower down the hill. And when I started to write, I found it hard to shake the lyrical style she then employed.

Now, decades later, I wonder if she believes a life of engagement dangerous opposition has been worth it. The question arises because, 18 years after the first free elections, Gordimer has the regime of Jacob Zuma in her sights. She wants it understood that South Africa has a wonderful constitution and a world-class Bill of Rights. All that is required is that these should be honoured; they are South Africa’s secular religion, but the government with its Protection of State Information Bill – aka The Secrecy Bill – is intent on subverting them. The bill is a sham designed to hide widespread corruption, by giving any organ of the state the ability to decide what constitutes the protection of state information; ministers will be able to prosecute and jail offenders.

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Photo courtesy The Age


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