One of the most challenging literary events of the last decade which took place in Athens was undoubtedly the lecture of Nadine Gordimer. It was a memorable experience to hear this tiny, silver haired lady speak with a soft but steady voice of some of her country’s unsolved problems: analphabetism and semi-alphabetism, poverty, racism, the transition from the racist regime to the democratic state, about those done during the last ten years of democratic government and above all for those yet to be done, which she described as “existing and as unpleasant as a hangover after a heavy drunkenness”.

The leading South African writer - and one of world’s famous atheists - wrote her first narrative at nine. She became aware of the inhuman exploitation of the Black People from the White ones from an early age. “There is one thing I am sure of: racism is wrong”. She did her duty as a citizen. Being white, and a woman, she always felt she had special responsibilities. Denouncing Apartheid in her books was one of them, along with letting the world know of the catastrophical consequences of the racial discriminations system to the lives of the people. She was rewarded for having been the Geiger Counter of Apartheid for fifty years with the Nobel Prize in 1991.

In her amazing novel “None to accompany me”, Gordimer builds up a story which, according to American reviewers, seems to perfect match hers. Cool though strict, Vera Stark «with legal studies and a liking for order», head member of the administration in a Legal Institution founded as “a reaction against the black mess» of the black community, fights back the system with its own tricks. She will become the living example of how the collapse of an old regime allows us perhaps to abandon our old self. Maybe abandon an old personal life, too. Indeed, she will gradually see everything around her changing radically, and as consequences provoke other consequences, she will almost lose her life, after a murder attempt against her which will bring her face to face with the face of death, she will experience the fall of the frenzied racism monster as well as the transition towards a new regime with new supporters, ready like the others before them to be corrupted, the unjustified violence and the extreme poverty, she will revaluate her own existence, as a mother, as a companion and as a woman, she will watch her friends changing, she will be fascinated by the leader of the Black People and she will endure all these hardships with the stoicism of wisdom. Just like her leading character, Gordimer testified as a defense witness in the trial of eleven black fighters standing trial for treason and terrorism.

Nadine Gordimer along with Toni Morisson, Marguerite Yursenar and Doris Lessing is considered to be a model female writer and her writing one of the best objects of study and analysis of narration technique and ideology. The form she uses in this novel is a revelation of style and originality. Specific phrases, phenomenally tending to repeat themselves every now and then, address directly to subconscious (appearing first as a dialogue, then as a given and finally as the initiation of Thinking). The combination of those phrases follows an almost mathematical way and becomes one of the main axons of her narration. Language against authorities sharp as knife, direct hits against religion, leading dialogues revealing invisible but very much alive sides of the characters, cursed by a south African realism, contemporary, shocking and dreadful. “It is not enough for someone to say that he is a writer. He must do what he can!”. She avoided answering to how she must have suffered during many decades under the shadow of a totalitarian regime. Who dares and say that the path of virtue is not narrow and dark after all?

by Ntina Kitsou

About the Author

Ntina Kitsou was born in Korinth, Greece in 1972. After having won a literary prize in 1998 she has published a novel (Veronica and the Colonel, Editions Patakis), several pastiches and short stories. She has collaborated with Diavazo Monthly Book Review with best sellers reportage, literary commentaries, reviews, interviews (amongst which with Paco Ignacio Taibo II, David Sedaris and Aris Fioretos) and written articles for Conference magazines.