Nadine Gordimer is one of our most telling contemporary writers. With each new work, she attacks—with a clear-eyed fierceness, a lack of sentimentality, and an understanding of the darkest depths of the human soul—her theme: the inextricable link between personal life and political, communal history. Revelation of this, not only in her homeland, South Africa, but in the twenty-first-century world, is fresh evidence of her literary genius: in the sharpness of her psychological insights, the stark beauty of her language,the complexity of her characters, and the difficult choices with which they are faced.
In No Time Like the Present, Gordimer brings the reader into the lives of Steven Reed and Jabulile Gumede, a “mixed” couple, both of whom have been combatants in the struggle for freedom against apartheid. Once clandestine lovers under a racist law forbidding sexual relations between white and black, they are now in the new South Africa, where freedom—the “better life for all” fought for, promised—is being created while challenged by political and racial tensions, the hangover of moral ambiguities that, along with the vast gap between affluence and mass poverty, haunts from the past. No freedom from personal involvement in these, in the personal intimacy of love.
The subject is contemporary, but Gordimer’s treatment is, as ever, timeless. In No Time Like the Present, she shows herself once again a master novelist, at the height of her prodigious powers.