Living In Hope And History (Bloomsbury £17.99)

Nadine Gordimer's new collection of writings, Living In Hope And History: Notes From Our Century, opens with a quote from one of the most prominent victims of the literary censorship she has long campaigned against. Salman Rushdie’s assertion that 'one of the things a writer is there for is to say the unsayable, to speak the unspeakable, to ask difficult questions'.

Her own approach to her writing has never strayed from these tenets; her ‘difficult questions’ have given imaginative and moral shape to the recent history of her native South Africa, perhaps more than the work of any other writer.

Born in 1923 to Jewish immigrant parents in the mining town of Springs, she now lives in Johannesburg. A committed anti- apartheid activist. ANC member and political polemicist, she remains primarily lauded as a fiction writer; it was her fiction that established her as not only a sensitive storyteller, but also a tireless and committed witness and critic of the political situation in her homeland.

Since 1953, her twelve novels and nine collections of short stories have explored the position of the individual in history and the role of the artist as political catalyst and commentator, via the changing patterns of response and resistance to apartheid and the position of the European in a post-colonial Africa.

Living In Hope And History is a celebration of Gordimer the essayist and observer. It draws together sketches of her countryman Nelson Mandela, correspondence with the Japanese novelist Kenzaburo 0e, reflections upon apartheid and its aftermath and discussions of the very craft of writing. Driven by a passionate anger and a questing intellect, Gordimer addresses the central issues of the South African situation - the burdens of history, guilt, inequality and poverty, the difficulties inherent in post-apartheid reconciliation and readjustment. cultural

Hope and story: Nadine Gordimer

imperialism and globalization.

These shifts of history and politics are rendered in the fluid and lively prose that has won Gordimer numerous awards, including the Booker Prize in 1974 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991. Her preoccupations remain firmly rooted in South Africa's ongoing struggle to confront its own past and structure its present; but her wider themes are universal.

An intellectual of truly global reach, her reference points dart from Brecht, Proust and Ibsen to the work of her fellow South Africans both black and white. Censored herself under the apartheid regime, she is fervent in her assertion that whatever artists choose to express, their right to express it is essential and, in itself, defines liberty.

Living In Hope And History is a book about South Africa, but it is no less a book about the very nature of literature. the uses and ambiguities of language and the concept of freedom. (Hannah McGill)

Living In Hope And History is published on Thu 78 Nov.

LITERARY SPORT On Bullfighting

peones. All of this is wrapped up in what is means to be Spanish and the

First writes

Putting debut novelists under the microscope. This issue: Andrea Koenig

Who she? Andrea Koenig grew up the fourth of eight children in rural Washington state. Aged thirteen, she wanted to be an engineer and seven years later moved to a haunted house in Dublin and played rhythmless guitar in a rock band. She later studied Creative Writing in New York’s Syracuse University and her debut took six years to write.

Her debut It’s called Thumbelina and tells the tale of a fourteen-year-old girl's life after the death of her somewhat negligent mum whose idea of nurturing is keeping an eye on her own looks and servicing her live-in- lover, Lester. Six feet tall and with too- thick glasses, Thumbelina strikes up a relationship with Myrna, a scary redhead half her size but too streetwise for anyone’s good. Together they take on the world but run into more pain and anguish than they could have dreaded for.

Basically . . . Basically, it's about finding your own voice in the face of adversity. And how a few Johnny Cash tapes can help you get by.

First paragraph test 'My mom always said not to tell personal information to strangers. So I’ll fix it so I’m not a stranger. My name is Thumbelina. I am fourteen years old. I used to live across the street from Bean Park on the second floor of those dirty yellow apartment buildings in Tacoma, the state of Washington. We were the orange curtains right above the American flag.’

Grand claims corner Grand claims come from US reviewers with flattering stuff like: 'Funny, lyrical and courageous' (Abraham Verghese, author of The Tennis Partner); ‘devastating and effervescent’ (Joe Coomer, author of Beachcombing For A Shipwrecked God).

To whom the book is dedicated 'In memory of Guthrie House.’

(Brian Donaldson) a Thumbelina is published by Scribner

Blood writes: On Bullfighting

A.L. Kennedy (Yellow Jersey £10) *k‘kfi‘k

Death becomes her. A.L. Kennedy is the last person you would imagine penning words on the most despicably gory and gratuitously pointless of human pursuits. The reason: she was asked to. And that seems to be all it takes for, arguably, Scotland’s finest living writer to flow.

Kicking off with Kennedy's thoughts on her own mortality - and her inability to bring that to an end herself her stall is set out immediately; she is no brutish, voyeuristic Hemingway. Rather, she wishes a farewell to these harms. She merely wishes to acknowledge the significance of the ’sport'; to help us understand the psychology of the 'players' - the matador, the picador, the torero, the

sacrosanct nature of blood (sangre).

Of course, when you get yourself so ensconced in something so vivid and new to your experience, it’s going to crop up in your waking and sleeping psyche. And Kennedy’s dreams are filled with bulls from the first heavily erect one she ever met while she recalls the vast mythology surrounding the,beasts; the Minotaur, ‘ltaly' directly translated as ’land of the bulls'; Europe being named after Europa the wife, lover and mother of bulls.

She has no truck with bloody death as erotic fetish but is moved enough to consider the religiosity of the battle. You should have your own truck with On Bu/Ifighting and you will be moved by the words and imagery within. (Brian Donaldson)

a On Bu/Ifighting is out now.

priced £ 6. 99.

é. Thumbelina : I If/

a 4-18 Nov 1999 THE U81105