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"Her fame protects her from the
government," which has always ended
up revoking bans on her books, he said.
Writing "As a result, she can say things that
other whites-and certainly
blacks-can't get away with.
(ContinuedfromPage3) She has had a "profound
psychological impact" on white
keeps other races at the bottom of readers, Suransky concludes.
society. Maureen has a vague sense of Yet Gordimer firmly refuses to label
guilt about having a black servant, but herself a "political writer." Her back
nevertheless her comfortable life seems to stiffen at the very mention of
depends on the continued existence of a the term. She does not write agit-prop,
black lower class, she says: "I never have and I never
P OLITICAL SCIENCE professor will."
Leonard Suransky, who, like Gor- As much as politics concern her, she
deongrdw urainsyJewh likelyor- is ultimately interested in the frailties
dimer, grew up in a Jewish family in and potentials of human beings. She
loath to let go of their luxurious way of eple."
"Whites like Gordimer lead a very None of her characters escape sharp
privileged life," he explained. scrutiny of their beliefs and
priileerylife," he expinedr hmotivations. Yet her Fellow South
"Literally everything is done for them African Brutus points out that her in-
by their black servants," from cooking Agticnt their hearts and mindsh er-
and leaing o crpetry nd ar- sight into their hearts and minds per-
and cleaning to carpentry and yar- mishrthmatiewt hi
dwork. "As a child, I never had to lift a mits her to empathize with their
finger to do a thing." predicament, while imagining what
July's People is a "mind-blower" for they could become.
that elite class, the chair of the Univer- In her novel The Conservationalist,
her protagonist is a white Afrikaaner z
sity Committee on Southern Africa whisaltoeehruhhehtrc
speculates. "rdmrtls(h) who is able to see through the rhetoricw
specule's. Gordimer tells (that) of his radical friends. "Change the
there's going to be a revolution, (and) o world but keep bits of it the way I like it
they will find themselves living in a hut, for myse-who woyIlmke t
srpd falherpwr"for myself-who wouldn't make thesfo
stripped of all their power."
"Is the position of the white a dead world over if it were as easy as that? To
end, or can it be made a new begin- keep anything the way you like it for
ning?" Gordimer herself raised the yourself you have to have the stomach
question in a 1981 lecture. to ignore-dead and hidden-whatever Gordimer: A new culture is possible
She says that white guilt can be a intrudes," he says.
starting point for the kind of con- But Gordimer will not allow anyone is a given," she commented. Rejected exile, they are building what Gordimer
sciousness-raising she believes is to ignore anything. by the official white culture, they have calls "a truly indigenous culture."
necessary. It's a sense of guilt, and "One has got to show the side of the had to fight to establish their own iden- "A poetry reading, for example,
fear she admits, that comes out of much angels,.. . warts and all," not fabricate tity, "In a society ordered and might involve the integration of several
of her early work, including the story "shining heroes and heroines," Gor- possessed by whites, the black does not different art forms, including the native
already discussed. But white guilt is dimer herself remarks. "Artistic truth posses selfhood. His values are not the oral and dramatic traditions," she ex-
not enough, she adds, an edge of irony reveals human worth through human norm," she said. plained.
in her voice. ambiguity." Michael, a Zimbabwean black Gordimer stresses that this new
"In order to progress, we have had to "To impose my particular moral student at the University who requested culture is "commonly understood,
begin to bury that guilt. It does no good views on my characters is to distort that his name not be used, agrees. commonly created" by blacks and
to go into a corner and bang your head truth," she adds. "Under apartheid the African has lost whites together. Young white people
against a wall." "Going around all sides of a sitation," his dignity. The black child grows up are no longer pretending to be natives;
Gordimer herself has gradually squeezing every detail, "describing with hopelessness. He must learn that young black people are no longer trying
moved from guilt to political commit- the full spectrum of human life, (in- (the) black man is capable. Else he is to imitate European art forms or buy
tment. The moral and personal issues cluding) all its imperfections and con- broken up spiritually... It's the same into the middle class.
raised by apartheid, she's realized, tradictions": this is how Gordimer situation that the slaves in the In Gordimer's opinion, commonly
have unavoidable political im- describes her committment to truth. (American) South were in," he said. created culture with a new, non-
plications. The "inner" demands of creative Whites, who do not share the black European set of values is the only place
With a slight shrug but an intense vision and the "outer" demands of experience of oppression and ex- where blacks and whites can meet on a
look, she explained, "In South Africa social responsibility come together ploitation, face a different kind of human level, overcoming the long-
today, everything comes down to when the writer accepts Chekhov's break-up. "Many (whites) still cling to standing barriers-both personal and
politics. It is all political." social-which remain between them.
"Opposition to an existing society Although he disagrees strongly with
implies a hunger to create and identify Gordimer's political opinions, Michael
with another one," Gordimer says. The also stresses "common ground" as the
search for a "meeting place" between 'The black child grows up with key to changing South Africa.
black and white has taken her a long "People are stressing differences all
way ideologically, as well as per- hopelessness. He must learn that (the) the time," he complains. "The fact is
sonally. black man is capable. Else he is brokenup that there is a lot of common ground
Now she asserts that if the color bar between blacks and whites. There must
is to be destroyed, the whole imperialist spiritually, be a coming together, an intertwining,
value system which produced it must - Michael where ideas can be shared. . . ". He
come down too. In other words, Gor- knits the fingers of both hands together
dimer believes a revolution is to illustrate.
necessary, and her precisely crafted Zimbabwean blacks and whites have
works of fiction are each, in their own joined together to make "the new
way, revolutionary acts. challenge "to describe a situation so the European set of values imposed on tribe," forming a new ruling class, he
Through the vehicle of artistic truthfully that the reader can no longer them in their education and their up- says.
imagination, "the unthinkable can evade it," Gordimer told her audience. bringing. They are uncertain what to The same thing must come about in
become feasible then desirable," When interviewed, she remarked that do if they break with the whites-only, South Africa. The potential is there;
Brutus says. "To enable the average this is an especially important and dif- neocolonial culture," Gordimer ex- this common ground already exists.
white South African to enter into a ficult task in South Africa. The plains. 'm"They (blacks and whites) are
Marxist frame of mind, as Gordimer euphemisms and artificial devices of However, Gordimer talks with en- citizens of the same country, are they
did in Burger's Daughter, is a major racial segregation have forced a "false thusiasm about the "bold young people not? They are one and the same people.
achievement." consciousness upon every member of who have dared to give up the The whites could have gotten rid of the
Suransky assesses Gordimer as "one the society, she said. stereotypes, dared to cross the boun Africans long ago, but they are not
of a few extraordinary whites, who, "The first step is for blacks and daries." Despite repressive censorship prepared to let go of them.
while leading a very privileged life, are whites to come to an understanding of laws, lack of white support, and the When the artificial barriers of apar-
working to change the system from who they really are." For blacks, "this constant threat of imprisonment or theid are removed-when, for example,
within. black and white South Africans meet
4 Weekend/Friday, October 26, 1984