In light of the uprisings of the 1970s Nadine Gordimer presented a very bleak and cynical prophecy to white and black South Africa. That prophecy suggested no solution to problematic race relations but foresaw an inevitable overthrow of the apartheid system of the Afrikaner Nationalists. With the declaration of independence by the neighboring nations of Angola, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, the demise of white rule in South Africa was anticipated.
July's People takes place during a future revolution in South Africa. Amid such chaos, traditional roles are overturned and new ones must be forged. In that sense, the novel exists in Antonio Gramsci's (the source of the novel's epigraph) interregnum—between the explosion of the old but before the birth of the new.
July's People captures the mood of a South Africa expecting revolutionary violence just like that experienced by neighboring countries. Instead of writing about a revolution, however, the novel assumes such an event will happen and imagines what affect it might have on a liberal white family. In this case, the family decides to accept their servant's offer of refuge and flee to his village. There, with all the awkwardness of Friday nursing Robinson Crusoe, they hope to wait out the war. Gradually, all the family's accoutrements of civilization are given up, stolen, or proven to be completely useless. Simultaneously, the power relations of society are revealed as hollow. However, there is hope in that self-awareness and in the children's immersion in village life as a possible route to the construction of a new South Africa.
Did this raise a question for you?