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Book Title: The Conservationist|
Date of issue: 2005
ISBN 13: 9780747578246
The author of the book: Nadine Gordimer
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 5.82 MB
Edition: Bloomsbury UK
Read full description of the books The Conservationist:Do not let the sea of 3-stars fool you into decrying the unpleasantness or the apparent plotlessness of this novel.
Not all of us read for pleasure after all. Besides it is an achievement of extraordinary proportions when an author manages to stretch the 'show don't tell' narrative device almost to the breaking point yet never failing to accentuate the core themes so realistically.
Nadine Gordimer puts her reader in a trance-like state with her hypnotic, lyrical descriptions of minutiae in an unstable world which is perenially straddling the line of divide between outright revolution and a kind of perilous peace. She breathes so much life into the landscape that it manages to appear far more humanly than the protagonist who claims its ownership.
There are discomfiting images galore seen through the eyes of Mehring, an opportunistic white farm-owner and businessman - hippos frolicking about in the murky waters of marshes who abort their foetuses sensing an impending drought, cows listlessly grazing about a farm peopled by inhabitants of different races and ambiguous allegiances, black children running about the veld snot dripping from their noses who are so carelessly mentioned in passing that they are taken to be closer in kinship with stray animals than humans, a dead body left to decay underneath water reeds by a lax administration, odious sexual encounters between strangers on a plane - which are potent enough to induce nausea in the reader and reinforce the unnaturalness of a South Africa under Apartheid.
"They were useless against the possibility - always present - of a visit from some official, investigator, inspector: many titles that all amounted to the same thing: a white man with the right to serve an eviction order. [ ]...he came in the name of law, there was no defence to keep him out. He must not be antagonized: the only way was roundabout."
The uncomfortable status quo which Mehring, his black workers and a group of Indians, who conduct business on the fringes of the farm, construct their lives around has much to do with the fact that Ms Gordimer wrote this at a time when the Anti-Apartheid movement had lost steam and its greatest hero was languishing in prison. Thus almost every impeccably crafted sentence is heavily impregnated with metaphors, allusions and analogies and so even a split second of lapse in attention can pose a crucial hindrance toward understanding.The violence and injustice that simmers just beneath the surface of the narrative is not just readily palpable but often threatens to spill over in to the realm of current reality.
Mehring, a despicable man in every sense of the term, seems to be caught up in an existential crisis aside from being trapped in a prison of his own making. He is the perfect representative of a cog in the wheel of Apartheid, a white Capitalist who doesn't doubt the sanctity of a social order in which the Africans and Indians are placed on rungs significantly beneath the white man's and believes himself to be a benevolent and just 'master'. But even so he appears to be enveloped by a sense of growing unease and is keenly aware of a prickling reminder of his assured everyday existence being nothing more than a portentous lull before the storm.
He is the titular conservationist of a contrived arrangement which is already starting to come apart at the seams and which will inevitably crumble to dust one day. But it is as if he almost knows his efforts at denial are futile which is why his inner world is thrown into a steadily deepening turmoil with each passing day. The proof of this can be found in Mehring's stream of consciousness degenerating into sporadic bursts of incoherence in the denouement.
His downward spiral, thus, subtly alludes to the the chinks in the armour of the political establishment and augurs its future demise.
"Yes, that's the deal, the hopeful reasoning of the impotence of your kind, of those who are powerless to establish their millenium. The only way to shut you up is to establish the other, the only millenium, of the body, invade you with the easy paradise that truly knows no distinction of colour, creed and what-not..."
I find it a wee bit disheartening to notice so few readers picking up a Gordimer book these days. Not only is her Nobel win highly deserved in the light of all her literary activism in the backdrop of Apartheid but she nurtured an ambitious vision of dissecting the power imbalance in race relations from so many dissimilar points of view and brought it to fruition so masterfully.
My reading of this couldn't have come at a more opportune time given South Africa is celebrating 20 years of democracy with the recent frenzy around its general elections. Here's to hoping interest in Ms Gordimer's work is revived on this momentous occasion.
Read information about the authorNadine Gordimer was a South African writer, political activist and recipient of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature. She was recognized as a woman "who through her magnificent epic writing has – in the words of Alfred Nobel – been of very great benefit to humanity".
Gordimer's writing dealt with moral and racial issues, particularly apartheid in South Africa. Under that regime, works such as Burger's Daughter and July's People were banned. She was active in the anti-apartheid movement, joining the African National Congress during the days when the organization was banned. She was also active in HIV/AIDS causes.
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