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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Nadine Gordimer

Nadine Gordimer in 1961
Photo: Alamy
(The Guardian: Nadine Gordimer, a Life in Pictures)
no copyright infringement intended

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, BBC, 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 (Kurt Jobst). 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 in Bucharest, 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)



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