A NY Times alert
came to my email a couple of days ago: the respected South African author and activist Nadine Gordimer
passed away, at the age of ninety. As I was browsing the obituaries from some major media outlets (The Guardian
, The Independent
, The Telegraph
, The Washington Post
, Al Jazeera
, to name but a few), I was thinking at the peculiar way my first encounter with her name took place.
Several years ago I was looking on the web to find references about a jeweler from Johannesburg
). Someone on a web forum had a bangle crafted by Jobst
and wanted to know more about him, firstly if he was still alive or not. I offered my help, and the first reference that I found shocked me (as I knew nothing about the man): it was about his funeral in 1971. This reference was from a library catalog consecrated to the papers of Nadine Gordimer
: an annotation quoting a sentence of her about Jobst
, that he gave Jo'burg some style
. A bit later I understood that this sentence was actually the title of a foreword written by Gordimer
for a monograph consecrated to Kurt Jobst
. But, at the very beginning, it was the only thing that I had found out about the jeweler, and also about the writer. I didn't know virtually anything about Nadine Gordimer
, previously to that moment, as I didn't know anything about Kurt Jobst
either.That sentence was telling me a lot about both of them. You could feel an author of great quality behind such a sentence, and also a person of great quality characterized by such words.
Later I discovered more about them. Nadine Gordimer
(that would receive the Nobel for literature
in 1991) and her husband Reinhold Cassirer
(about whom I would read years later another superb phrase - not coined by Nadine Gordimer
this time, but anyway :) - that he had been an eccentric art dealer in a class of his own
) were regularly invited by Kurt Jobst
who enjoyed treating his friends with sophisticated dishes cooked by himself. I had the chance to make acquaintance with someone who had been by that time in their circle of friends, and who gave me a great description of their dinners.
Naturally this gave me the impulse to read Gordimer
's books, and I promised myself that I would start doing it, only time is always one's greatest enemy when it comes to fulfill such promises. Any small urgent task puts a delay to one's enthusiastic plan and then delay comes over delay and that's it.
There are several books by Nadine Gordimer
at the English Bookshop
, and each time I'm going there I can see them on the shelves, and the story of Kurt Jobst
, the man who gave Jo'burg some style
, comes again in my mind. That story and all those people who one way or the other had a role in it - and their whole world - this circle of friends from Johannesburg
, part of the tumultuous history of South Africa in those years. And I feel again the impulse to read her, and to open this way the gates toward the complex and contradictory South African universe.
Well, last time I was the English Bookshop
I bought one of Gordimer
's books: The Late Bourgeois World
. I would come back, very soon (hopefully:).
(A Life in Books)
Labels: Nadine Gordimer