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Book Title: My Son's Story|
The author of the book: Nadine Gordimer
Loaded: 2214 times
Reader ratings: 5.1
Date of issue: 1990
ISBN 13: 9780747507642
The size of the: 312 KB
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Format files: PDF
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Will, playing truant, bumps into his father with a white woman at a movie theater. A narrative unfolds of reflections enmeshed with aggressive personal bitterness and the political upheaval of the times in South Africa. Nadine Gordimer’s 'My Son’s Story' becomes the story of the son, the father, the mother, and the father’s woman: embedded in the interplay of race, gender, politics, family, love and commitment.
‘It was because of them whose pigments darkened the blood, procreated a murky dilution in the veins of the white town, disowned by the white town..’
The black and the real black; what it is to have something of the white man in the veins. It is not the same, of course. It cannot be grasped together in one sweeping gesture of the arm. The segregation exists not only from the white people, but also in the sense of a community based on ‘blackness’ and ‘real blackness’.
‘Better to keep them at distance and not recognize any feature in them.'
The act of segregation and how the family defies the suggestion, even though it means comprehending their abode as a symbol of ghettoizing, of indignity, of degradation. The personal is sacrificed for the public, for an idea and a principle.
‘The trouble was, he didn’t feel himself inferior – inferior to what, to whom?’
‘Freedom’ isn’t the same as ‘Equality’. Equality is often processed into something finer called freedom. Being free doesn’t mean an aspiration for equality which often reeks of envy for the one who is superior. To become like those you have always hated and feared. Who wants that? Until and unless that sense of inferiority has been sufficiently internalized with a pejorative sense of one’s self and identity.
‘..if she gave Sonny everything else of herself, it would have been worth less if she had not kept to herself some fiber of personality as a separate identity’
A marriage shared with an intuitive sense of togetherness, an understanding which is instinctive, and with a complicity of responses, suffers from a distancing that happens with one disjointed experience followed by aloofness, silent pain and withdrawal. Aila becomes a silent steadfast presence throughout the novel.
The commitment to the community, the acts of making it right for the others often invade the spaces of personal, family relations, and there is a feeling of usurpation of the ‘evenings’, the ‘picnics’, the ‘Saturdays’ spent together in the ‘grayness’ of the city. And the latitude one gains with such elevation in the domain of the public, in reshaping the personal, mixing up its components here and there, disordered and sometimes unattended. -- ‘..not to be followed in his private thoughts by ordinary people. Like herself. Like us’.
‘But he knows I can’t speak – to my mother; I can’t refuse to be in the know, with him.’
The act of performing, the slyness, and the difference that can be smelled. And the misery at such a discovery, the ‘privilege’ of stumbling upon the darkness, the secret, and the change that comes with it, as the slow seething poison that gushes in to corrupt the sanctity of long held faith and love shared.The tiny guarded morsels of autonomy one is fed with to keep the darkness to some closed quarters of the conscience. And the bitterness at the thought of how the sense of guilt melted only to congeal and harden as wax over the disordered, dysfunctional lives.
‘Oh Aila, Aila. Why did Aila never speak?'
There is in Sonny a need for a certain kind of vocabulary. There is the vocabulary of tranquil love, of family matters, comfortable silences, which is so attuned to the language of the shared years that catching on, learning and unlearning as per the demands the situation becomes difficult; Aila is the slow learner. And the other one of politics; redundant, abstruse, exciting. And the attraction that brews for a woman who crosses the political spheres to comfort, console, reassure and get entangled with the personal. Needing Hannah. The inescapable, always.
Aila has never been granted subjectivity throughout the course of the story. She is always the silent presence. The son incessantly speaks of his mother but always as the nurturer who has been wronged by his father, thus bringing destruction to their home. The more Sonny recedes into Hannah, the more Aila comes out of this objectified patriarchal notion of motherhood and femininity. The cutting of her hair is disapproved by her son as a symbolic bowdlerization of the graceful womanhood that he always associates with his mother.
‘She never came back, cut loose. She was gone for good: my mother’
But even this lack of subjectivity becomes purposeful in Gordimer’s representation of the revolutionary potential of a quiet, ordinary, unassertive woman who has now attained convictions and determination of her own in a political, personal and narrative space largely dominated by patriarchal prejudices and activity.
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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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