The Soft Voice of the Serpent Author:Nadine Gordimer A native of South Africa, where she still lives, Nadine Gordimer has published several of her stories in American magazines (The New Yorker, Harper's, The Virginia Quarterly). This is her first published volume, and her debut is an exciting one. Miss Gordimer is very young--in her early twenties, according to her publishers--and very talented. — ... more »All of these stories have South Africa as their setting. Miss Gordimer possesses a keen eye, a sharp car and a devastating sense of smell. Place is an important element in her fiction: she is, however, no limited local colorist. Her primary concern is with specific individuals--an Indian fisherman, Johannesburg medical student, expatriated concession shopkeeper--who embody universal traits.
Most of Miss Gordimer's characters are faced with the problem of making dubious compromises between their rights as individuals and their responsibilities as members of society. The author sees life as a battleground for, on its most obvious level, the warfare of the classes. Some of her best work depicts the results of this warfare: ''The Catch,'' a story of a native fisherman and a city couple who at first admire him, later patronize him, and finally repudiate him; or ''Ah, Woe Is Me,'' an account of a serving woman's unsuccessful struggle to raise her children above the level of moral and social serfdom.
Many of Miss Gordimer's remaining stories mirror the hostility--uneasing, though seldom openly declared--between individuals: between man and woman, between parent and child, between intellectual and Philistine. She writes with discipline and moderation, unusual for so young an author; she avoids extremes of both subject-matter and method. Concerned with suggesting the essence of personality, she avoids the excesses of psychoanalytic writers. She possesses considerable social awareness, but only one or two of her stories become blatant social protests.
In her book her people are frightened, unsure of themselves, separated by individual, economic and social differences. They need understanding, not hatred or indifference. Many of them find it. The author's sympathetic treatment of human shortcomings and her belief in the dignity of simple people is refreshing and reassuring.