Six Feet of the Country Summary
by Nadine Gordimer

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Six Feet of the Country

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Even if South Africa were not in the news, these seven stories would make excellent reading: Nadine Gordimer is simply one of the finest short story writers in the English-speaking world. SIX FEET OF THE COUNTRY is a collection of her best short stories from previously published books, and here one receives a generous sampling of her narrative style, a mixture of the best to be found in writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene, William Faulkner, and O. Henry. She is in constant control of her medium; every word seems measured and precise.

Each of these stories turns--somewhat ironically--on a bizarre encounter between a black and white resident of South Africa, separated as they are by laws, culture, language, and traditions. In the title story, “Six Feet of the Country,” a young black boy is taken to the morgue after he dies from exposure. When his relatives claim the body, they discover that the wrong body is in the casket. They appeal to their white employer, who happens along at the awkward moment of the burial. He, in turn, petitions government officials and acts as a sort of liaison between the poor blacks and officialdom in Johannesburg. In the end, the body is never recovered, but the whiteman finds himself in an odd and ambiguous position, an unwilling representative of a government bureaucracy which neither he nor his employees understand.

Sexual relations are always complicated, but interracial affairs in South Africa are especially dangerous and cumbersome. In “Good Climate, Friendly Inhabitants,” a white widow becomes unwittingly involved with a seedy white criminal, and in her confusion adopts a black man as her confidant. Ultimately, the black man saves them all by deftly sending the white suitor on his way--he understands the implications of the...

(The entire section is 444 words.)