Tag-Archive for ◊ Ibrahim ◊

Author:
• Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Nadine Gordimer was born in 1923, into a white privileged middle-class family, in the small mining town of Springs Transvaal, outside Johannesburg, in South Africa. Both her parents were immigrants, her father, a Latvian jeweller, and her mother, from British descent.

Gordimer went to a convent school for her education. She was often made to stay at home, due to her mother’s belief that she had a weak heart. A good opportunity for Gordimer to start writing from the age of nine. Her first story “Come Again Tomorrow” was published when she was fourteen years old, in the children’s section of the Johannesburg Sunday newspaper Forum.

By the time she was twenty, she had had many stories published in local magazines. The New Yorker has been publishing her articles since then.

In 1945 Nadine Gordimer studied for a year at the university of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. She was exposed for the first time to the social and political atmosphere of South Africa, which was to be her life time struggle.

She obtained honorary degrees in the United States, from Yale, Harvard, Columbia, New School for Social Research, also from Leuven University in Belgium, and from the university of York and the university of Oxford and Cambridge in England, and from Cape Town and Witwatersrand universities in South Africa.

She was made a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France and is the vice president of International Pen and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Litterature.
In 1998 she rejected the candidacy for the Orange Award, because it was only for women writers.

She was the first South African and the seventh woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Litterature in 1991. She also won the 1974 Booker Prize. During the 1960s and 1970s she taught in various United States universities.

Nadine Gordimer has written fiction, non-fiction, screenplay and short stories.
“The Soft Voice of the Serpent”, a collection of short stories, published in 1952, was Gordimer’s first book. “The Lying Days” her second novel.

Nadine Gordimer has a daughter from her first marriage and a son, Hugo Cassirer, who is a film maker, from her second marriage. She has been living in Johannesburg since 1948.

Starting from an early age, Nadine Gordimer has been concerned about the segregation in South African society due to the racist Apartheid regime, which she very vehemently opposed, despite growing in a society that considered it normal. She never spared any effort campaigning against racism in South Africa. She was the voice of the oppressed non-white through her writing. She is what we might call, a moral conscience of her country.

In The Pickup, Gordimer sets out what might look like a simple love story, but in fact the novel deals with many problems. Julie Summers a 29-year old white South African English young lady, who works for a media company, from a wealthy separated parents that she doesn’t care for much, falls in love with a dark skinned garage mechanic, an illegal Arab immigrant in south Africa who belongs to a humble background and is threatened with deportation. The intrigue starts to get complicated as the story progresses.

Throughout the novel we go through the trials and tribulations of the two lovers in order to reach a living compromise. They are both rejecting the values that they grew up with. Julie having distanced herself earlier on from her “bourgeois” background in South Africa, by living in very small modest accommodation, spends her free time with a liberal multiracial group called “The Table” at the L.A. café and drives a second hand car.

Faithful to her bohemian belief, she wants to live the simple life of her husband Ibrahim’s family in the arid desert despite the heat, the sand storm, the food, the primitive house and the language. She is happy to remain there and teach the English language to the natives. Ibrahim with his degree in economics is dreaming of leading the opulent an successful of Julie’s father, somewhere abroad, escaping from his harsh family life.

While Julie despises her father’s privileged lifestyle, Ibrahim is embarrassed by his family’s rudimentary way of life. Julie and Ibrahim have no common background. They are two opposites that attract.

The novel is divided in two parts. The South African part with the problem of racism, class and arbitrary bureaucracy, and the Arabian unnamed country part with the problem of unemployment and a bleak future for young people. Like the division between the two main characters.

Julie discovers in her husband’s family all the values she was missing in her own country and amongst her family. Such as solidarity between the members of the same family, the generosity, the spirituality, and the endless desert that she fell in love with, for her it represented the ultimate freedom which she was seeking.

As for Ibrahim, being in his own country was as good as being in prison, for him freedom was abroad where he could fulfill his dream. That’s why he accepts to emigrate to the United States without any hesitation, even if Julie refuses to accompany him.

Julie and Ibrahim remain faithful to their own selves until the end, even if they have to sacrifice their love for each other. But is it really a sacrifice or did they use each other as a means to reach what they were aspiring to?

———–
The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer was discussed by the members of the Book Club of the United Nations Womens’ Guild on Friday, 1st December 2006.

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Author:
• Sunday, February 03rd, 2008

Paul Scott was born in the north London suburb of Southgate in 1920, from a Yorkshire commercial artist father and a South London mother Frances Mark, a former shop clerk. He was the younger of two sons.

Paul Scott was educated in Winchmore Hill Collegiate, a private school where his education was abruptly ended at the age of 16 due to his father’s business being in financial difficulty. He decided to make a career in accountancy.

Paul Scott was conscripted to the army in 1940, and in 1941 was married in Torquay to Nancy Edith Avery called Penny. He was sent to India in 1943 as an officer cadet and ended the war as captain in the Indian Army Service Corps.

After completing his duty in India, he went back to live in London with his family. His two daughters, Carol and Sally were born in 1947 and 1948.

In 1950 Paul Scott became a director while working for the literary agent Pearn Pollinger and Higham and from 1960 onwards he dedicated himself full time to writing. His books were not recognised until quite late and he died in 1978 in hospital in London from colon cancer.

Paul Scott wrote several novels:
Johnnie Sahib in 1952.
The Alien Sky in 1953.
A Male Child in 1956.
Mark of The Warrior in 1958.
Chinese Love Pavilion in 1960.
Birds of Paradise in 1962.
The Bender in 1963.
The Corrida at San Feliu in 1964.
The Raj Quartet:
1. The Jewel in the Crown in 1966.
2. The Day of the Scorpion in 1968.
3. The Towers of Silence in 1971.
4. A Division of the Spoils in 1974.

The Raj Quartet was made into a television series under the name of “The Jewel In The Crown”.

Staying On in 1977 won the Booker Prize award and was made into a film in 1979 by Granada television. He also wrote reviews for The Times, the Times Literary Supplement, the New Statesman, and Country Life.

In 1976 and 1977 he was “visiting professor” at University of Tulsa in Oklahoma U.S.A.

Staying On is a sequel to The Raj Quartet set in the Anglo-Indian frame several years after India gained its independence in 1947.

The two main characters are Tusker and Lucy Smalley, a retired ageing British couple, mentioned briefly in The Raj Quartet novels. Married for forty years and living an uncommunicative marriage, they decide to Stay On in a small bungalow in the hills of Pankot, a small town in India. Despite being deprived of their colonial status and despite the changing times in India and the seediness of the place, they opt to stay rather than return home to England due to financial need. “I knew the pension would go further in India than in England” Tusker says to his wife.

The novel is set in 1972. It narrates the present and the past with funny, sometimes sad and sometimes touching style, the poignant silent loyalty and the resentful trust and reliance between the ageing couple (Tusker and Lucy).

The story starts with Tusker’s death. All the events in the book are a flashback till the end when the author brings back Tusker’s death in order to re-knot the beginning with the end.

Throughout the book Tusker is painted as a selfish, inconsiderate, grumpy character, but by the end and before his death, he reveals his soft, hidden, endearing side, which makes his departing deeply moving.

Nothing much appears to happen in the book, but the story is still engrossing due to the vivid description of the characters and the bittersweet subject.

Tusker and Lucy have seen better days during the time of the Raj, but those days are over and now they have to lead a modest life, “hang on”, swallow their pride, and endure the grotesque Mrs Bhoolabhoy’s bad temper. “ ‘Oh, Mrs Bhoolabhoy, Lucy began, we’re expecting a guest on Wednesday. I wonder if you’d kindly book a room-‘ ‘I have already told Colonel Smalley I can’t be bothered with that… I have other things to deal with. All I want to know is about the shears.’ ‘Shears?’ ‘Shears. Shears. Shears!’ Mrs Bhoolabhoy raised her arms and made motions. Snick-snick. Shears!’ she shouted… I will not have my property taken off the premises…She waddled away, leaving behind her a trail of sandalwood perfume which,to Lucy, was like the pungent smell of her own smouldering outraged dignity.”

Ibrahim, the Smalley’s manservant is etched in a funny light hearted way. His conversation with the mali gardener, Joseph, is hilarious : “’Ibrahim,’ Joseph said,’what happens if you are pushed by both Sahib and Memsahib ? ‘Given push, not pushed. Get idiom right.’ ‘what happens if you are given push by Sahib and Memsahib at one and the same time?’ Ibrahim looked at him thoughtfully. He said.’Suddenly you are a philosopher as well as a gardener? You are entering realm of metaphysics ? Joseph Einstein is it ? Versed in the theory of time and relativity? Haven’t I just made it plain that Sahib and Memsahib are always at logger-heads and that sometimes they do not even know what time of day it is, even in Pankot ?”

Paul Scott chose India as a rich and colourful frame work for his books, because since the time he was posted there, he fell in love with the country and wanted to convey his enthusiasm to English people, in particular for those who heard about this vast country but never visited it nor interested themselves in discovering its varied cultures.

In 1972 referring to his whole career to date, Paul Scott told his audience during his British council tour of India : “My proper answer to the question,’why do you, as a modern English novelist of serious pretensions, bother to write about the time-expired subject of the British Raj?’ is, must be, if my novels are novels at all, because the last days of the British Raj are the metaphor I have presently chosen to illustrate my view of life.”