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A Sport of Nature: A Novel


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Author won Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991

About the Author

Nadine Gordimer is the author of eleven previous novels, as well as collections of stories and essays. She has received many awards, including the Booker Prize (for The Conservationist in 1974) and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.


Gordimer achieves a remarkable imaginative integration of private and public experience in this powerful novel, which traces the life of a beautiful South African woman from childhood to early middle age. Born to white privilege but abandoned by her mother, who bequeaths her a rich sexuality; reared by two aunts, who embody the opposing worlds of material comfort and social consciousness; on her own by 17, and soon immersed in the first of a series of relationships whose direction no one could have predictedalways Hillela is passionately grounded in her own feelings as she becomes increasingly involved in the black struggle, nationally and internationally. Yet she remains elusive, transcending simple definition even as her story, shaped by intense moral concerns, reaches a climax of stunning grandeur. A brilliant, engrossing noveland highly recommended. BOMC dual main selection.Elise Chase, Forbes Lib., Northampton, Mass.

This ninth novel (July's People, Burger's Daughter, The Conservationist, etc.) by Gordimer deals, as does most of her writing, with South Africa, her native land, with the emerging black leadership of surrounding states and with the ways in which human beings survive physically, emotionally and morally under, and struggle against, racism and injustice. Required reading for our era, it is a moving and powerful book that, in a career rich with distinguished works, could well be considered her masterpiece. The title comes from the translated Latin term for a plant or animal form that is unlike its parent stock, and applies equally to the protagonist, Hillela, a Jewish South African followed from adolescence into her 40s, and to South Africa itself. Abandoned early by her mother for a lover in Mozambique, Hillela lives for a time with her father in Rhodesia; is expelled from boarding school there and is shuttled between the households of two maternal aunts, until her burgeoning sexuality and an innocence of appropriate categories as to whom one may love, cast her out of the family circle. As she grows into womanhood, Hillela becomes an increasingly impressive personality, ever more closely linked to contemporary events. The strands that make up her life, as that life is reported, rumors and all, by an unnamed narrator, are woven into the larger tapestry that portrays South Africa over a span of more than a quarter of a century, from the late 1950s, when the government became increasingly oppressive, to the rise of black consciousness and militancy in succeeding decades and into the near future. Gordimer, who vividly conveys the impossibility of living decently under apartheid, clearly sympathizes with Sasha, Hillela's pro-revolutionary cousin, who writes, ``The mines and petrol bombs are planted by blacks, but it's the whites who have killed their own children.'' (April 27)

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