(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Nadine Gordimer is a political writer by necessity, for in the land of her birth there is no escaping the pervasiveness of politics. It permeates everything, affecting all groups and individuals, warping, shaping, often destroying whatever it touches.

These sixteen stories, like most of Gordimer’s work, take us beneath the surface and cliches, beyond the news reports, international maneuvering, and daily violence to the hearts of those who suffer from, fight against, tolerate, ignore, or promote the injustices of apartheid. But Gordimer is a political, not polemical, writer: She is more interested in the moral corrosion caused by politics than in promoting ideology, and it is this which lifts her stories beyond their particular time and place into universal human experience.

Gordimer is usually at her best when politics forms the background rather than the overt subject of her stories. The fables “Once Upon a Time” and “Teraloyne,” for example, probe less deeply into the people and issues than do “My Father Leaves Home” and “Spoils.” In the former, skillful construction and precise handling of point of view culminate in a pheasant-hunting scene that becomes a powerful metaphor for the slaughter and oppression that have terrorized people throughout history. In “Spoils” a similar hunting metaphor juxtaposes man’s greed and nature’s way of apportioning spoils to all.

The political stories vary in their...

(The entire section is 452 words.)