“A Stranger in a Strange Land”: Nadine Gordimer and Her Journey Through Egypt
Marek PawlickiUniversity of Silesia in Katowice
Marek Pawlicki is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Literary Studies at the University of Silesia in Katowice. He is the author of the book Between Illusionism and Anti-Illusionism: Self-Reflexivity in the Chosen Novels of J.M. Coetzeeand articles on the works of J.M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer, Iris Murdoch, William Golding, John Banville, Anne Enright, and Colm Tóibín. His critical interests include South African literature, postcolonial studies, memory studies, and ecocriticism.
The aim of the article is to describe Nadine Gordimer’s political development in the late 1950s by analysing her travel essay “Egypt Revisited” (1959) and her short story “A Thing of the Past” (1959). In the first part of the article, Gordimer’s political stance is explained in reference to her non-fictional texts. It is argued that in the late 1950s Gordimer was torn between her liberal humanist belief in multiracialism and the awareness that this stance was becoming increasingly untenable in the changing historical circumstances. Her journey to Egypt in 1959 gave her a valuable opportunity to consider her political convictions in the wider context of the decolonization processes happening on the African continent. What is clear both in “Egypt Revisited” and “A Thing of the Past”—a short story inspired by her visit to Egypt—is her desire to transcend the colonial perspective by distancing herself from her racial and social origins. These texts also convey her belief that the decolonization processes in African countries force the white inhabitants of the continent to redefine themselves so that they can remain politically relevant in the new reality. This belief would become the basis of the political and artistic theories that she developed in the decades to follow.