Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, January 10, 2013

"Comrades" by Nadine Gordimer -Project 196-South Africa

"Comrades" by Nadine Gordimer (1991, 5 pages)

Project 196
South Africa

19 of 196 Countries
Nadine Gordimer

  1. Georgia 
  2. Canada
  3. U. S. A.
  4. The Republic of Korea
  5. Antigua and Barbuda 
  6. Haiti
  7. Trinidad and Tobago 
  8. Ukraine
  9. Cameroon
  10. Botswana
  11. Sudan
  12. Dominica 
  13. Israel
  14. Syria
  15. Ethiopia
  16. Zimbabwe
  17. Peru
  18. Chile
  19. South Africa

When selecting a short story for South Africa I was very happy to see a work by the Nobel Prize  (1991) winning Nadine Gordimer (1923-South Africa)  in an anthology my daughter Valerie gave me for Christmas, The Penguin Book of International Women's Short Stories.   I have previously posted on a novel by Gordimer, My Son's Story, which deals with race relations in South Africa and today's short story, "Comrades" focuses on these same issues.  

The story is told in the first person by an affluent Caucasian South Africa woman who is deeply committed to the cause of racial equality and justice.  She is in attendance at a large conference and when her car is approached by a group of black teenagers her first impulse, which she feels ashamed of, is to lock her door.  Then she says no these people are here for the conference and they will not rob me.  She is in a chauffeur driven vehicle and she invites the teens to get in the car and go to her house for something to eat.   You can tell she does not really feel at ease with them.   When they get back to her  house she does not want them to see that she has a black maid.   She serves them a meal and begins to converse with them.  They are not college students from middle class families, the boys will be destined to be soldiers and the girls will be maids or wives.   She imagines they are silent because they are somehow shocked  by the beauty of her house.  In a revelation to her at the end, the only part of her world that even registered on them was the food she gave them that temporarily stopped their hunger.   

This was a a very well done story that lets us see the woman come to a realization about her self and her relationship to the teenagers.   

Author Data and some social background on South Africa

 (1923-) born in Johannesburg South Africa in a time of institutionalized legally mandated white supremacy.    Citizens were legally classified as either pure white, black or colored by the government. (Indians were also treated as a separate class of citizen.)   Where one could live was determined by your race.   Where you could go to school was determined by this.  In most areas, only whites were allowed to use the libraries, for example.   The wealth of the country was concentrated in the hands of whites.    Here is a good summery of the history of racial relations in South Africa (from

"Racial segregation in South Africa began in colonial times, but apartheid as an official policy was introduced following the general election of 1948. New legislation classified inhabitants into racial groups ("black", "white", "coloured", and "Indian"), and residential areas were segregated by means of forced removals. From 1958, Blacks were deprived of their citizenship, legally becoming citizens of one of ten tribally based self-governing homelands called bantustans, four of which became nominally independent states. The government segregated education, medical care, and other public services, and provided black people with services inferior to those of whites.

Apartheid sparked significant internal resistance and violence as well as a long trade embargo against South Africa.[1] A series of popular uprisings and protests were met with the banning of opposition and imprisoning of anti-apartheid leaders. As unrest spread and became more violent, state organizations responded with increasing repression and state-sponsored violence."

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