Friday, May 4, 2007

nadine gordimer

I will be posting more comments on Nadine Gordimer, but why not start with this impressive novel by one of the leading contemporary writers. 'The pickup' begins with Julie, a pampered white girl in need of reparing her car... Then Ibrahim (though we don't know his real name until almost half of the novel is read), comes along working illegally in the car service center where Julie leaves her car. Rapidly they begin a relationship were Julie plays the metaphor of the condescending white making amends with this exotic 'other'. But Gordimer's approach is complex and difficult to stereotype, so when Julie leaves everything to follow Ibrahim to his (arabian) country (I surmise Morocco, though the novel doesn't name it), things get more complicated. As an alien, and a woman, who doesn't speak the language, she fits oddly in this Muslim society. There's a lot of unexpected turns in the novel, but what I really like here is the transformation that Julie experiences staying in the desert, her effort to surpass the language barrier, and the joy, almost mystic, that provides the contemplation of the desert. Here Gordimer offers a numer of precious images for this apparently barren landscape. The desert symbolizes the gap between these two cultures, as well as the freedom everyone requires to make contact with that elusive, perhaps impossible, other. As the narrator says: Ibrahim "is not looking at her when his regard is on her" and Julie is simply "looking for herself reflected in those eyes."


KK Kueen said...

This book was recommended to me during my own relationship with a man from a Muslim culture. Me, the pristine Caucasian woman. Hah! I recognized many things in her transformation but her ultimate choices were not my own. Otherwise...we wouldn't have met.

Nico said...

Wow, how incredible and direct! Yes, it is that kind of dilemma. The novel commands some resolutions that are very unexpected, especially her decision to stay there when the guy leaves. That, to me, was very impressive and significant, especially since Julie seems so spoiled and phallic-oriented, that one would never have foreseen her outcome. What a great novel!
I'm happy you came out safe&sound!

Paola said...

you guys have spoiled the ending! anyway, to me Julie seemed a bit self destructive. What's up with these women who choose these options? Like Coetzee's Disgrace, when she decides to have the baby. It's as if women take the burden of their communities (racism, xenophobia) and pay for it, in full. I fail to see the liberating aspect of these decisions. Am I too pessimistic? gloomy? feminist and bitter? So be it!