I just finished reading July’s People, a novel written by Nadine Gordimer in the midst of the South African civil war. Along with The Lying Days, written during the early stirrings of the liberation movement there, and Crimes of Conscience,
written as the struggle came to fruition, it completes what for me is a
profound trilogy spanning four decades of transition from fascism to
Probably more instructive in some respects than the
autobiographies pertaining to this forty-year period of a four century
conflict, Gordimer’s novels expose the tensions within the European
colonial community in dealing with an inhumane system in which even
good-hearted liberals deprived the natives of basic human dignity.
Perhaps most intriguing is Gordimer’s ability to reveal the personal
torment experienced by the settler population as a result of the
disturbance of their established society, that not surprisingly took
unexpected, horrible forms.
As someone who not only lived through
the purging of the poison of state-sponsored terror, but also engaged
the struggle at great personal risk, she allows us to see the sacrifices
required in such social upheaval, as well as the shortcomings and
disappointments that inevitably impact the participants. As a narrator
unafraid of confronting these genuine human frailties, Gordimer presents
an unvarnished view of the bittersweet experience of activism in the
pursuit of justice that can serve to shield us, should we, as a society,
someday choose to uphold the principles and practice of democracy here.
I know of no author who has done it better.
The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.access here