Friday, September 17, 2021

My hero / Nadine Gordimer by Tessa Hadley

 

Nadime Gordimer




My hero: 

Nadime Gordimer

 by Tessa Hadley

'No one writes as well as Gordimer about the conscientious unease of privilege'

27 January 2012



I
have a few heroes among living authors – but I've chosen the one who came first, the one who made a bridge for me into the present, out of my love of the classic writing of the past. In my early 20s, I was ignorant about contemporary fiction and hadn't come across anything that struck me with the power of George Eliot or Tolstoy or Lawrence. I opened A Guest of Honour in a bookshop and stood reading the first sentences. "A bird cried out on the roof and he woke up. It was the middle of the afternoon, in the heat, in Africa; he knew at once where he was." I can still remember the excitement.

'A tremendous teacher': Gordimer. Photograph: Jerome Delay


A reader's relationship is quite different to a living writer. Because you're alive in the same moment, breathing the same air in the same world, reading a great contemporary feels like finding yourself inside the forge where the book is being made. The writer is working at the edge of what's understood, shaping the inchoate present into sentences, revealing it for the first time.In my 20s, I was hungry to find out, through books, how to live. Gordimer was a tremendous teacher. There was the grandeur of her great and terrible subject, apartheid South Africa. There was the sheer sensuous materiality of her prose; Bray in A Guest of Honour doesn't wake to the idea of Africa, but to its birdsong, its heat – often in her stories there is a mysterious conjunction between sensual, sexual sweetness and radical politics. And then, no one writes as well as Gordimer about the conscientious unease of privilege, however impeccably liberal – the worm under the skin.

I contrived once, when I was young, to be in the back of a radio studio where Gordimer was giving an interview – I just wanted to share her space, feel the impact of her physical presence: fiercely concentrated, petite, precise. Writers aren't often made of heroic stuff, but it isn't only Gordimer's work I admire; there's something in the story of her life – her wholehearted politics and love of her country – that commands the imagination.

THE GUARDIAN




2009
001 My hero / Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd
002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm

2010

017 My hero / Jack Yeats by Colm Tóibín
018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
040 My hero / Annie Proulx by Alan Warner

041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford
043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
044 My hero / Jane Helen Harrinson by Mary Beard
045 My hero / Edmund Burke by David Marquand
046 My hero / Shelagh Deleaney by Jeanette Winterson
047 My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid
048 My hero / Gwen John by Anne Enright
049 My hero / Michael Mayne by Susan Hill
050 My hero / Stanley Spencer by Howard Jacobson

051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
052 My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman
053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal

2011
079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
100 Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson
102 My hero / David Hockney by Susan Hill

2012

190 My hero / Iris Murdoch by Charlotte Mendelson
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer

2015
2016



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