Whether talking about her own writing, interpreting the works of others, or giving us a window on the world that "we in South Africa are attempting to reconstruct," Nadine Gordimer has much to tell us about the art of fiction and the art of life.
In this deeply resonant book Gordimer examines the tension for a writer between life's experiences and narrative creations. She asks first, where do characters come from--to what extent are they drawn from real life? We are touching on this question whenever we insist on the facts behind the fiction, Gordimer suggests, and here she tries to unravel the mysterious process that breathes "real" life into fiction. Exploring the writings of revolutionaries in South Africa, she shows how their struggle is contrastingly expressed in factual accounts and in lyrical poetry. Gordimer next turns to three writers linked by their search for a life that transcends their own time and place: in distinctive and telling ways, Naguib Mahfouz, Chinua Achebe, and Amos Oz defy accepted norms of loyalty to the mores and politics of their countries. Their search in Egypt, Nigeria, and Israel for a meaningful definition of home testifies to what it must be: the destination of the human spirit beyond national boundaries. Ending on a personal note, Gordimer reveals her own experience of "writing her way out of" the confines of a dying colonialism.