The Train from Rhodesia Critical Overview
by Nadine Gordimer

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Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

When Gordimer published "The Train from Rhodesia" in 1952, overt criticism of South Africa's political system by writers often resulted in censorship of their works. Thus, the story was Gordimer's subtle attempt to illustrate the insidious ramifications of racial discrimination. While she had already published many short stories in literary magazines, her readership was limited to a small audience of liberal, white South Africans. Internationally, her condemnation of apartheid gained her respect, but her second novel, A World of Strangers, was banned by the South African government. Yet even as her critics attacked her politics, others praised her technical mastery of language, her fluid imagery, and natural characterizations. "The Train from Rhodesia" itself, however, received little attention from critics upon its publication.

The volatile racial tensions in South Africa have continued to affect the reception of Gordimer's literature throughout her career. Many critics have attempted to categorize Gordiraer as a political writer, though she has resisted this label. She has always maintained that her writing is first about people and that she seeks to speak honestly and creatively about people's lives, not politics. Though admitting that writing can have radical effects on people's lives, Gordimer argues that one should focus on the writing itself when writing, and not think of one's audience. Intentionally writing propaganda, she says, would destroy the aesthetic merit of her work. Many critics apparently concur, since Gordimer received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991, for "her magnificent epic writing [which] has been of very great benefit to humanity." A few critics steadfastly maintain that downplaying the politics of her stories is an evasion of her political responsibility. The South African government, however, disagrees; her 1966 novel The Late Bourgeois World was banned for twelve years.

Contemporary scholars respect the strategy of Gordimer's fiction . According to scholars like John Cooke,...

(The entire section is 462 words.)