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Nadine Gordimer

  • She felt the natural ties of affinity rather than the conventional blind ties of the blood.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • "La Vie Boheme," Face to Face ()
  • The business of eating, which in common with a crisis or danger brings heterogeneous incompatibles comfortably together, was over and now suddenly we were all fallen apart.

  • He had the patient, practical, uninterested tone of the white person willing to help a native with money or authority, so long as he is not expected to listen to any human details of the predicament.

  • My mother and father and I now lived in the intimacy of estrangement that exists between married couples who have nothing left in common but their incompatibility.

  • It is not the conscious changes made in their lives by men and women — a new job, a new town, a divorce — which really shape them, like the chapter headings in a biography, but a long, slow mutation of emotion, hidden, all-penetrative; something by which they may be so taken up that the practical outward changes of their lives in the world, noted with surprise, scandal or envy by others, pass almost unnoticed by themselves. This gives a shifting quality to the whole surface of life; decisions made with reason and the tongue may never be made valid by the heart ...

  • I saw this thing turn, like a flower, once picked, turning petals into bright knives in your hand. And it was so much desired, so lovely, that your fingers will not loosen, and you have only disbelief that this, of all you have ever known, should have the possibility of pain. All the time you are seeing the blood trickling a red answer slowly down your hand.

  • I have learned since that sometimes the things we want most are impossible for us. You may long to come home, yet wander forever.

  • ... power is something of which I am convinced there is no innocence this side of the womb ...

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • "Oral History," Six Feet of the Country ()
  • The two women gazed out of the slumped and sagging bodies that had accumulated around them.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • Vital Statistics
    • ()
  • Time is change; we measure its passing by how much things alter.

  • Keenness of hearing revives when one is alone.

  • ... when it comes to their essential faculty as writers, all writers are androgynous beings.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • introduction, Selected Stories ()
  • I believe — I know (there are not many things I should care to dogmatize about, on the subject of writing) that writers need solitude, and seek alienation of a kind every day of their working lives. (And remember, they are not even aware when and when not they are working.) ... The tension between standing apart and being fully involved; that is what makes a writer.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • introduction, Selected Stories ()
  • Fiction is a way of exploring possibilities present but undreamt of in the living of a single life.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • introduction, Selected Stories ()
  • Fat overflowed not only from her jowl to her neck, but from her ankles to her shoes. She looked like a pudding that had risen too high and run down the sides of the dish.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • "Enemies," Selected Stories ()
  • Her ageing self often seemed to her an enemy of her real self, the self that had never changed. The enemy was a stupid one, fortunately; she merely had to keep an eye on it in order to keep it outwitted. Other selves that had arisen in her life had been much worse; how terrible had been the struggle with some of them!

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • "Enemies," Selected Stories ()
  • Nothing fades so quickly as what is unchanged.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • "The Last Kiss," Selected Stories ()
  • In a certain sense a writer is 'selected' by his subject — his subject being the consciousness of his own era.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • introduction, No Place Like ()
  • ... it's impossible to conquer all fear and loss by preparation. There are always sources of desolation that aren't taken into account because no one knows what they will be.

  • ... sentiment is for those who don't know what to do next.

  • You can't be afraid to do good in case evil results.

  • People in delirium rise and sink, rise and sink, in and out of lucidity. The swaying, shuddering, thudding, flinging stops, and the furniture of life falls into place.

  • In various and different circumstances certain objects and individuals are going to turn out to be vital. The wager of survival cannot, by its nature, reveal which, in advance of events.

  • It was a miracle; it was all a miracle: and one ought to have known, from the sufferings of saints, that miracles are horror.

  • At last, deathly tiredness drained him of all apprehension; so might a man fall asleep half-an-hour before he was to be woken by a firing squad.

  • Abstractions hardened into the concrete: even death is a purchase. One of Bam's senior partners could afford his at the cost of a private plane — in which he crashed. July's old mother (was she not perhaps his grandmother?) would crawl, as Maureen was watching her now, coming home with wood, and grass for her brooms on her head, bent lower and lower towards the earth until finally she sank to it — the only death she could afford.

  • The present was his; he would arrange the past to suit it.

  • ... in writing, sex doesn't matter; it's the writing that matters.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • in George Plimpton, ed., Writers at Work, 6th series ()
  • ... a writer doesn't only need the time when he's actually writing — he or she has got to have time to think and time just to let things work out. Nothing is worse for this than society. Nothing is worse for this than the abrasive, if enjoyable, effect of other people.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • in Jannika Hurwitt, "Nadine Gordimer, The Art of Fiction No. 77," Paris Review ()
  • Censorship may have to do with literature; but literature has nothing whatever to do with censorship.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • in Steven Clingman, ed., The Essential Gesture ()
  • The creative act is not pure. History evidences it. Ideology demands it. Society exacts it.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • in Steven Clingman, ed., The Essential Gesture ()
  • The function of a writer is to make sense of life. It is such a mystery, it changes all the time, like the light.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • in Olga Kenyon, Women Writers Talk ()
  • Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • "Censorship and Its Aftermath," lecture ()
  • Writers themselves don't analyze what they do; to analyze would be to look down while crossing a canyon on a tightrope.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • Nobel lecture ()
  • Humans, the only self-regarding animals, blessed or cursed with this torturing higher faculty, have always wanted to know why.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • Nobel lecture ()
  • Nothing factual that I write or say will be as truthful as my fiction.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • Nobel lecture ()
  • It is in the tension between standing apart and being involved that the imagination transforms both.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • Nobel lecture ()
  • I never talk about what I'm writing about currently, never. It's private work on your own, no need or obligation to talk about it. Writers are made into performers these days, including myself, but there are some instances in which I will not perform.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • in Karin Winegar, "A Voice Against Racism," Minneapolis Star Tribune ()
  • Disaster is private, in its way, as love is.

  • Truth isn't always beauty, but the hunger for it is.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • "A Bolter and the Invincible Summer," Telling Times: Writing and Living 1950-2008 ()
  • [On Muriel Spark:] ... whose two most recent books seem to indicate that she has chosen for good, the confines of some girls' institution as her private vision of the world; there are stockings dangling to dry above every page.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • "Notes of an Expropriator" (1964), Telling Times: Writing and Living 1950-2008 ()
  • It's absolutely fatal to your writing to think about how your work will be received. It's a betrayal of whatever talent you have.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • in The Los Angeles Times ()
  • ... what a writer does is to try to make sense of life. I think that's what writing is, I think that's what painting is. It's seeking that thread of order and logic in the disorder, and the incredible waste and marvelous profligate character of life. What all artists are trying to do is to make sense of life.

    • Nadine Gordimer,
    • in Jannika Hurwitt, "Nadine Gordimer, The Art of Fiction No. 77," Paris Review ()
  • What is love? You learn only as you go along.

Nadine Gordimer, South African novelist, Nobel winner

(1923 - 2014)