Critical Context

Nadine Gordimer is one of South Africa’s most respected authors. She has received numerous awards for her short stories and novels, among them the W. H. Smith Literary Award, in 1961, for Friday’s Footprint and Other Stories (1960), a short-story collection, and the Booker Prize, in 1974, for The Conservationist.

Gordimer’s fiction is an evocation of contemporary South Africa, both its land and its people. She writes with sensitivity about apartheid and the political and social tension which results from enforced separation of the races. Thus, much of her work—such as The Late Bourgeois World (1966), A Guest of Honor (1970), and Burger’s Daughter (1979)—is colored by a political consciousness that has not endeared her to the South African government, which has from time to time suppressed her novels.

Though The Conservationist has political overtones, it is not, in fact, a political novel. The story is a subtle examination of a solitary South African male. The world, seen through his eyes, is a perilous one to which he stubbornly clings. In The Conservationist, Gordimer demonstrates her versatility, creating a powerful male character through whom is filtered her native South Africa.