As a writer, Gordimer frequently examines the permanent ways in which the intrusion of politics affects the private lives of individuals in spite of themselves. My Son’s Story is a novel observing this pattern. Sonny and his family, without consciously choosing to be so, have all become involved in the struggle for freedom and must face the consequences, be they liberating or debilitating, in their own ways.

It should also be pointed out, however, that Gordimer’s major concern as a writer is the aesthetic rather than the political dimension of her work, as is made explicit in an interview with Paul Gray and Bruce W. Nelan in Time in 1991. In the interview, Gordimer explains that although she is a card-carrying member of the African National Congress, and although she does allude to jealousies among its leaders in My Son’s Story, her subject is not apartheid but rather “living” in South Africa and “the people who live there”; furthermore, she continues, she does not think that an imaginative writer such as herself should “put whatever talent he or she has at the service of a revolution, no matter how much you believe in it yourself.”

The foregoing statements shed important light on the imaginative intentions of My Son’s Story, although it is also interesting to note that the aesthetic emphasis has suppressed many details, such as those about the internal struggle within Sonny’s organization and his fall from political grace—details that may have tremendous dramatic potentials. Indeed, with notable exceptions such as the march into a black township, where Sonny is to give a speech at the funeral of several massacred black children, the physical...

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