THE THEME OF SEXUAL DISCRIMINATION IN NADINE GORDIMER’S NONE TO ACCOMPANY ME
BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Gordimer’s earlier novels explore the inter-connections of race, gender and sexuality from various thematic perspectives and within different periods of South African history and politics. In all these perspectives, the constant focus of critique and interrogation is the racial order rooted in the politics of European settlement and the convergence of different races and ethnicities in the region.
The history of South Africa demonstrates the extent to which the politics of racial segregation and dominance are inseparable from rural/urban economies and the implications of gender and sexuality. Race determined the entire social fabric of South African society. Within the structure of apartheid, it determined the nature and terms of sexuality and regulated all other forms of social relations. Gordimer’s protagonists from Helen in her first novel, The Lying Days (1953), to Rosa in Burger’s Daughter (1979) struggle constantly with this order and its replication in the white family. The processes by which these protagonists question, reject, transgress or re-define this order represent Gordimer’s imaginative grappling with the South African present. Even where, as in July’s People (1981), she imagines the possibility of a revolutionary change in the social order, she locates her discourse solidly in the present as if to suggest that, in South Africa, the future will always be mediated by the present and past. The narrative’s context of revolution in None to Accompany Me thus provides space for envisaging what Fanon has called ‘the inner mutation’ and ‘the renewal of the social and family structures’ (1989: 179) crucial for a changed social and political order.
Bibliography of Nadine Gordimer
Nadine Gordimer, (born November 20, 1923, Springs, Transvaal [now in Gauteng], South Africa—died July 13, 2014, Johannesburg), South African novelist and short-story writer whose major theme was exile and alienation. She received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991.
Gordimer was born into a privileged white middle-class family and began reading at an early age. By the age of 9 she was writing, and she published her first story in a magazine when she was 15. Her wide reading informed her about the world on the other side of apartheid—the official South African policy of racial segregation—and that discovery in time developed into strong political opposition to apartheid. Never an outstanding scholar, she attended the University of the Witwatersrand for one year. In addition to writing, she lectured and taught at various schools in the United States during the 1960s and ’70s.
Gordimer’s first book was Face to Face (1949), a collection of short stories. In 1953 a novel, The Lying Days, was published. Both exhibit the clear, controlled, and unsentimental style that became her hallmark. Her stories concern the devastating effects of apartheid on the lives of South Africans—the constant tension between personal isolation and the commitment to social justice, the numbness caused by the unwillingness to accept apartheid, the inability to change it, and the refusal of exile.
In 1974 Gordimer’s novel The Conservationist (1974) was a joint winner of the Booker Prize. Later novels included Burger’s Daughter (1979), July’s People (1981), A Sport of Nature (1987), My Son’s Story (1990), The House Gun (1998), and The Pickup (2001). Gordimer addressed environmental issues in Get a Life (2005), the story of a South African ecologist who, after receiving thyroid treatment, becomes radioactive and hence dangerous to others. Her final novel, No Time like the Present (2012), follows veterans of the battle against apartheid as they deal with the issues facing modern South Africa.
Gordimer wrote a number of short-story collections, including A Soldier’s Embrace (1980), Crimes of Conscience (1991), and Loot, and Other Stories (2003). Living in Hope and History: Notes from Our Century (1999) is a collection of essays, correspondence, and reminiscences. In addition to writing, she lectured and taught at various universities in the United States during the 1960s and ’70s. In 2007 Gordimer was awarded the French
Legion of Honour.