No Time Like the Present, Nadine Gordimer’s latest and arguably finest novel, was launched at Exclusive Books Hyde Park last night. As with many of her former works, No Time Like the Present deals with issues of identity, race and various socio-political issues that are unique to the complexity of being South African.
Pan Macmillan’s Terry Morris introduced the eighty-four-year-old Nobel laureate, saying, “Nadine has just returned from a rather gruelling trip to the UK. The publicity around No Time Like the Present has been remarkable and the book has been reviewed by Gillian Slovo in The Guardian and Boyd Tonkin in the Telegraph. It has also reached massive acclaim and our local media coverage has been just as spectacular.”
Victor Dlamini, one of the finest commentators on South African literature, followed Morris with his own introduction. Dlamini revealed what an honour it was to introduce the esteemed author’s latest “work of the imagination”, saying that the book is “very interesting because even though Nadine did not yield to the nomadic impulse and has stayed in South Africa all her life, the book deals with exile.”
Dlamini noted that the issue of identity has always played a central role in Gordimer’s works. He argued, “Even though it is now 2012 and we have had 18 years to wrestle with this notion of what it is to be South African, in her writing we get this sense of wrestling with identity in a very deep way, resisting the edge of the usual boundaries. She clearly relishes language and both her fiction and non-fiction rewards the reader with passages of exquisitely written prose. But it is perhaps the scalpel that Nadine brings to even the simplest notions; she insists on slicing through them to reveal what they contain inside. One of her remarks is particularly telling. She says, ‘No-one is ordinary’.”
Dlamini explained how Steve, a central character in No Time Like the Present and the son of a Jewish mother and a Christian father, could be categorised simply as a ‘white man’. But when you probe deeper you realise these easy notions do not reveal much beyond the label. “Gordimer explores identity without the reductionism that is so prevalent in our popular media”, he said. He noted how Gordimer, who has been writing since 1950 and through many political epochs, “explores personal responsibility and the socio-economic and political frontiers that bedevil even the most innocent human interaction. She dares to revisit the concept of race, even though years of political correctness has dulled this subject.”
Following in the wake of Dlamini’s praise, Gordimer concluded the launch by treating her audience to a reading from No Time Like the Present.
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Victor Dlamini also posted a few tweets from the launch:
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