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Nadine Gordimer's Politics

- Abstract

In Johannesburg, in 1949—the year I turned seventeen—my mother and three or four others launched a publishing company called Silver Leaf Books. It did not last long. It published only three books, two of which were soon forgotten. The third, Face to Face, was a volume of short stories by a young writer named Nadine Gordimer. The title did not become widely known, but the stories did. The collection was soon republished in New York under a new title: The Soft Voice of the Serpent.

Nadine Gordimer, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991, was born in the small town of Springs on the Witwatersrand, where her father, a Latvian-Jewish immigrant, had a jeweler’s and watchmaker’s business. When I first met her in Johannesburg in 1949 she was married to Gerald Gavron. His family, the Gavronskys, were of Lithuanian-Jewish origins, like my own. (A cousin of his, Helen Gavronsky, became famous and much honored as Mrs. Helen Suzman for her persistent stand against apartheid in the South African parliament.)

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