oa Alternation - Nadine Gordimer's Fictional Selves: can a white woman be 'at home' in Black South Africa?

Volume 7, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1023-1757



Growing up in South Africa where only 5.6 million people are white out of a population of 37.9 million, Nadine Gordimer became increasingly conscious of her whiteness. The colour of her skin instantly signalled 'oppressor' to black South Africans. Her whiteness imposed upon her a social and political identity that she rejected; yet, it was like a face she could not wash off, a mask she could not take off. As she said in a 1978 interview, 'In South Africa one wears one's skin like a uniform. White equals guilt' (Bazin & Seymour 1990:94). She often sought to separate her personal identity from that of her racial group in order to be welcomed rather than be shut out (or even shot) by those for whom whiteness signified 'enemy'. Must she go into exile, or would she eventually feel 'at home' in her native country? Writing helped to clarify her thinking on these matters, because in her fiction she could imagine a variety of probable scenarios in which an array of fictional selves could act out possibilities.

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