The Ultimate Safari

by Nadine Gordimer

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Student Question

Why do the grandmother and narrator have different views on returning to Mozambique?

Expert Answers

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While she and her family are in the refugee camp, the narrator's grandmother is interviewed by a white journalist. She asks the old lady a number of questions about her current predicament, questions that are translated by someone else into the grandmother's native language.

The journalist asks the grandmother if she has any hopes for the future. "Nothing. I'm here" is her blunt reply. She is then asked whether she will ever return to her native land, Mozambique. The grandmother is insistent that she will never go back, not even after the war ends (should it ever do so, of course). There's simply nothing for her to go back to.

The narrator's attitude is different. As she tells us right at the end of the story, she plans to return to Mozambique one day, going back the same way that she came: through Kruger National Park. But then, the narrator is still young, naive, and full of life. That being so, she has much greater hope for the future than her grandmother.

The old lady has reached the stage in life where she's pretty much given up the ghost. She's too old for wandering; at her time of life all she wants to do is settle down, even if it means staying in a squalid refugee camp for the time being.

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A possible reason for the difference in opinion about Mozambique might have to do with the generational gap between both.  The narrator features less roots, less connection, and less experience to Mozambique.  For a grandmother who has lived in Mozambique all her life, seen a daughter married and disappeared in Mozambique, and has experienced a life there, the bonds are much deeper and stronger.  The other element that might define why both grandmother and daughter have different opinions about Mozambique is that the daughter's experience in Mozambique has been marred by pain and loss.  She has seen her village pillaged and plundered by the bandits and seen the disappearance, and presumable deaths, of her mother and father.  For the daughter, Mozambique represents home, but pain and loss.  The grandmother, too, experiences this, but this does not constitute her only memories of Mozambique.

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