Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 428

Gordimer is praised for her body of work in both long and short fiction. Critics commend her ability to reflect the changing times in South Africa through stories that demonstrate what daily life is like for the people living in that nation. Many scholars find Gordimer’s perspective to be of great literary and historical value. In Contemporary Literature, Nancy Bazin notes:

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Nadine Gordimer says she is not a political person; yet her writings document, decade by decade, the impact of politics on personal lives and what an increasingly radical white South African woman felt, thought, and imagined during the rise and fall of apartheid.

Echoing these sentiments, Rowland Smith, writing in Dictionary of Literary Biography praises Gordimer’s work as a means of tracing the dramatic social and political changes in South Africa over the course of her life. He writes:

Gordimer’s career is remarkable for the range of work she has produced and for the consistently penetrating analyses of her society that she offers. The changes of emphasis in those analyses have been remarkably constant indicators of the changes in the society itself.

Graham Huggan notes in Research in African Literatures that Gordimer’s contributions as a chronicler of contemporary South African experience come as much from her short stories as from her novels. Huggan is just one of many critics who applaud Gordimer’s accomplishments in the short story genre. He comments, ‘‘Gordimer has proved herself over time to be one of the foremost exponents in the world of the modern short story.’’ Describing specific strengths of Gordimer’s writing, Smith observes, ‘‘Her irony and accuracy produce compassionate indictments of the folly and tyranny of the apartheid state in which she lived since its inception in 1948.’’

In World Literature Today, Barbara J. Eckstein asserts that readers should examine the complex picture of interracial relationships presented by Gordimer throughout her fiction. To illustrate, Eckstein relates ‘‘Town and Country Lovers’’ to another of Gordimer’s short stories:

Is the hegemonic fear of rape by the black man that dictates the behavior of the white woman in ‘‘Is There Nowhere Else Where We Can Meet?’’ enhanced by the cruel law and white self-interest imposed upon the young black women with white sexual partners in ‘‘Town and Country Lovers’’? . . . I answer yes.

Gordimer continues to receive praise from critics for her work as a whole and for individual works. They encourage readers to consider individual works, including ‘‘Town and Country Lovers,’’ as components of a greater whole that yields a rich and insightful view into modern South Africa.

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Essays and Criticism