WRITING AND BEING by Nadine Gordimer


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With one uncharacteristically personal and moving exception, Gordimer (None to Accompany Me, 1994, etc.) offers crisp and richly allusive explorations of the tensions between a writer's art and the realities of life in six essays first delivered as the 1994 Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard. The first essay, ""Adam's Rib: Fictions and Realities,"" in which she responds to the charge that a writer's characters are based on real people, provides an overview of the ideas she subsequently explores. For her, writing is like ""Primo Levi's metamir, in which a metaphysical mirror does not obey the law of optics but reproduces your image as it is seen by the person who stands before you."" The writer is such a person and receives intimations, usually hidden, of what you are--intimations that become fiction, in which the writer is neither a looter of characters nor an absentee presence dependent on the reader as ""producer of the text."" Her second essay, ""Hanging on a Sunrise: Testimony and the Imagination in Revolutionary Writings,"" discusses the state of writing in postapartheid South Africa, as members of the ANC publish their memoirs, the best of which possess a ""spirit beyond and above setting the story straight, which is the business and usefulness of testimony."" Essays such as ""Zaabalawi: The Concealed Side,"" ""To Hold the Yam and the Knife,"" and ""Forgotten Promised Land"" respectively explore the writer's quest ""for the Home that is the truth, undefined by walls, by borders, by regimes"" in Naguib Mahfouz's The Cairo Trilogy, Chinua Achebe's Anthills of the Savannah; and Amos Oz's Fires. And in ""That Other World that was the World,"" Gordimer explains how she, the child of immigrants, came to write, and how after years of alienation under apartheid, she ""may now speak of 'my people.'"" A well-argued brief for writers and writing to which Gordimer's South African experience adds a unique perspective.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 067496232X
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Harvard Univ.