Tessa Hadley reads “City Lovers,” a story by the South African writer and 1991 Nobel Prize, winner Nadine Gordimer. The story, which was published in The New Yorker in 1975, focusses on a love affair between a white man and a “colored” woman in Apartheid South Africa. It’s deeply political in its details—the man is a geologist at a mining company, the couple’s affair is illegal, and they cover it up by pretending that she is his servant. But Gordimer writes with a focussed intimacy that makes the piece a tragic love story rather than a political morality tale. “One of the things I think she can teach us,” says Hadley, “Is how to write politically without becoming shrill.”
Bellow, you can listen to author Tessa Hadley read “City Lovers,” first published in The New Yorker in 1975:
Hadley, whose new story collection, “Married Love,” was published in the U.S. in November, was in her twenties when she discovered Gordimer, and says that she was the first contemporary writer that she learned to love. “It was a very important moment when I found her,” Hadley says, “because I had really only loved old books.… Suddenly, I discovered… this writer, whose books felt as big as Tolstoy to me.” Hadley says that she chose “City Lovers” because “it just catches the two things she does best. It’s so direct about something political, something historical in the world. And yet, it’s also about bodies, individuals, sex, and, of course, that is the very subject of the story—the meeting of the natural, the animal, the flesh, with the overlay of culture and social identity. But that makes it sound a bit boring, because it’s utterly compelling.”
Source: Fiction Podcast: Tessa Hadley Reads Nadine Gordimer
5 September 2012
Posted by The New Yorker
Yesterday, The New Yorker commented that, although she wrote 15 novels, it was “through her short fiction Gordimer made her presence felt the most.” Gordimer published her very first short story, “Come Again Tomorrow,” in a Johannesburg magazine in 1938, when she was just 15 years old. Thirteen years later, there came another first — the first of many stories she published in The New Yorker (“A Watcher of the Dead”). Although many of Gordimer’s New Yorker stories remain locked up, available only to the magazine’s subscribers, we’ve managed to dig up several open ones. Above, you can watch Gordimer read her 1999 story called “Loot” while visiting Harvard University in 2005. The text has since been re-published on the Nobel Prize web site.
Nadine Gordimer, whose novels of South Africa portray the conflicts and contradictions of a racist society, was named winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature today as her country finally begins to dismantle the system her works have poignantly explored for more than 40 years.
In a brief citation, the Swedish Academy, which confers the awards, referred to her as “Nadine Gordimer, who through her magnificent epic writing has — in the words of Alfred Nobel — been of very great benefit to humanity.”
The academy also added that “her continual involvement on behalf of literature and free speech in a police state where censorship and persecution of books and people exist have made her ‘the doyenne of South African letters.’
Other Gordimer stories available online include “The First Sense” and “A Beneficiary”, published respectively in The New Yorker in 2006 and 2007. “The Second Sense” came out in The Virginia Quarterly, also in 2007. If you, dear Open Culture readers, happen to know of any other Gordimer stories published online, please let us know in the comments sections below, and we’ll add them to the roundup.