juliette_m_m (juliette_m_m) wrote,

The Lying Days by Nadine Gordimer

Have you ever experienced that brain tingling  sensation  as you lower yourself, as if into water and become gradually immersed in writing that is so engaging that you wish to savour again and again the feel of the water lapping over you and caressing you. This is my rather humble attempt to describe reading Nadine Gordimer's first novel published in 1953.  Grateful thanks must go to Incurable logophilia for drawing me to read this South African author who had her first story
published when she was only 15.  Imagine my frustration as I researched this author and found that she had been on Oxford only last year....

  I missed the author who, in 1991 received the following citation for The Nobel Prize in Literature

''who through her magnificent epic writing has - in the words of Alfred Nobel - been of very great benefit to humanity"

Almost every page of Nadine Gordimer's writing drew me in to reflect upon situations and relationships in the context of South Africa of the 1950's.  She brings into close juxtaposition the emotional and political climate as her story unfolds.  It was no wonder for me as I read that she had been one of the first people that Nelson Mandela met following his release.  In addition she has been awarded fifteen honorary degrees from universites in USA, Belgium, South Africa, and from York, Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the UK. She was made a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France), and is Vice President of International PEN and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She was also a founder of the Congress of South African Writers.  In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and in 2007, the Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur (France).  

‘Learning to write sent me falling, falling through the surface of the South African way of life,’ said Gordimer.  It is evident that she has a real affection for her homeland in the deepest sense of the word.  This poignantly highlights the political persecution on the lives of ordinary South Africans that she portrays in The Lying Days.

One question I have relates to the WB Yeats poem quoted at the beginning of the book and I quote

The Coming of Wisdom with Time:

“Though leaves are many, the root is one;
Through all the lying days of my youth
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun
Now I may wither into the truth” 

In this short poem Yeats seems to express an unhappiness about the finality of aging .  So we move from three lively, vibrant lines to a dried up final line that suggests a passive, rather beyond my control type of change.  As I followed the growing into young adulthood of Helen through the emotional and political landscape of the novel it was not the 'withering into a truth' that was reflected to me.  It was more an optimism borne of her choice, a sense of self
realisation that I felt with Helen on the quayside as she awaited her departure.

Reading this work led me to become interested in researching more of this amazing lady's life and works.  A notable quote, taken from an interview with the author for BBC Radio 3 captured for me Helen's journey; ‘As a white SA you go through a second birth – take privileges for granted round about adolescence you realize there is something very strange and as you get older something very wrong …’ 18th October 1998
Finally, the power of this work lay for me in the descriptions of place, a way of living, the sadness of lives that were so inexorably intertwined with conventions of the time and place. My copy is littered with multi colouredstickies’ highlighting yet another passage worthy of comment and reflection. My remaining lingering thought is that this is a work of fiction yet lives were lived in this novel and man’s inhumanity to man and his inability to respect his fellow human continue to this day – wherever we are. What is our response to the injustices around and within us today?

11 / 64 books. 17% read!
Tags: 888, book around the world, caught my eye

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