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12 Uncomfortable Things That Will Make You More Successful

A long list of uncomfortable things you're going to have to face in your career that will make you stronger.
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Conversation with Nadine Gordimer - The Sun News

Conversation with Nadine Gordimer - The Sun News | conference interpreting, Comparative literature, translation, programme evaluation, didactics, current affairs |
First published in Sunday Sun, September 10, 2006 At eighty-two, Nadine Godimer walks with an amble. The frailties of old age are manifest. Her face is eclipsed of vigour and her skin is tinged with crimson. She speaks sotto-voce and manages to flash a smile, with her glassy eyes impairing its brilliance. She is startledRead More

Via Charles Tiayon
Charles Tiayon's curator insight, August 8, 2014 11:00 PM

At eighty-two, Nadine Godimer walks with an amble. The frailties of old age are manifest. Her face is eclipsed of vigour and her skin is tinged with crimson. She speaks sotto-voce and manages to flash a smile, with her glassy eyes impairing its brilliance. She is startled by noises and eats her launch at the Senate Building, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, with tenderness, some majestic grace about it, though.

As she sits amidst three taller people, seemingly struck by her grandeur, her diminutive stature looks more petit. On her first ever visit to Nigeria, the 1991 Nobel laureate in Literature is overwhelmed by Nigerian hospitality. University undergraduates and writers keep beseeching her for autographs, relishing the rare opportunity with her. She is benign to a fault, and obliges their requests one by one.

Done with her meal, she labours to carry the many complimentary books given to her by some Nigerian writers. “Can you help me carry these books?” she solicits from me, and smiles her thanks afterwards. “Can you walk me down to the Oduduwa Hall?” she asks again, a favour I graciously oblige. She walks with a slow gait and keeps glancing dreamily at the whorls of flowers around the breathtaking scenery of the university. Suddenly, her movement stills at a cantour, and she makes a gesture for me for assistance, and, like diligent minder, I respond promptly.

Meanwhile, Godimer is sniffy about the sleazy slums she witnessed in an isolated part of Lagos on her way to Ife. “Is Ife like Lagos” she asks, starting a conversation. Like her, I am a first-timer in Ife. So, I resort to my little knowledge of geography and history, “It’s a lovely town, the cradle of Yoruba civilization, full of ancient landmarks”. Her face glistens as she permits a wan smile. With her snail pace, the less than fifty metre walk becomes like a long sail to Byzanthum. She is in Nigeria to attend the ANA-organised colloquium to mark the twentieth anniversary of Wole Soyinka’s Nobel Prize in Literature.

The Oduduwa Hall is semi-deserted as a result of the ongoing lunch break, and I snaffle the opportunity to engage her in a chat. “It’s lovely to come to a country you haven’t been to before. I’m very interested in all countries on the African continent,” she admits with little perkiness. She has been to few West African countries –Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal –and all the southern African countries. “But I’ve never been to Nigeria, so it’s an opportunity to be here and also honour Wole Soyinka,” she enthuses with mildness, squirming involuntarily in her seat.

In 1991, she became the first African woman and the second woman ever to win the glamorous Prize in Literature. Godimer is over the moon at her achievement. “I was the second woman to win the prize. Literature has no sex. Woman-man classification doesn’t count. I was the first woman from South Africa to win the prize, but it’s the work that counts, not the sex.”

Born into a well-off family (a Jewish father of Latvia descent and a British mother) in Springs, Transvaal, an East Rand mining town outside Johanessburg, the Nobel laureate started writing at the age of nine. “I’ve been writing all my life,” she tells me fondly. Like every other kid, she read and wrote poetry, but, on realizing that she was not cut out for poetry, she went into prose. “I wrote poems as most young kids do, but, as soon as I realized how bad they were, I stopped writing them. Then I started off as a short story writer, and I think it’s a wonderful medium. I still write short stories. I’ve published eleven books of short stories and fourteen novels. I haven’t given up one for the other.

“Sometimes the theme is so wide and needs so much space that you admit that it’s going to be a novel. At other times, it’s close to me as a short story. It’s like an egg. You know how an egg is?” she asks, demonstrating a spherical shape in the air. “It’s totally contained: the yoke is there, the white is there, and the shell is holding it all. That’s the short story. But, in a novel, you’re pegging out each stage in your mind,” says Godimer, who has also published four non-fiction.

Some of her works are A Guest of Honour, The Conversationist, Burger’s Daughter, July’s People, Get a Life (prose) and Loot and Jump (short stories). She is, among others, Honorary Member of American Academy of Arts and Sciences and American Academy & Institute of Arts & Letters.

Was she expecting the Nobel Prize when it came her way?” She mutters a “No”, after which a monologue is jarred loose. “The thing with prizes is that it’s a great mistake to think about them, because, if they’re going to come, they’re going to fall like manna from heaven, and you just go and do your work the best way you can. Indeed, two years before I got it, a journalist phoned me from Sweden and told me, ‘You’re on the shortlist and probably you gonna get the Nobel Prize’. And I’d say, ‘If I ever get it, you can call me again, goodbye’.”

She, then, unbars her mind on the challenges of a post-apartheid South Africa, “Unlike in the apartheid, we face different challenges now. We’re building a country in a new way. To say rebuilding isn’t a correct term. Are we going back to pre-colonial times? Are we going to go back to traditional society? The answer is no, because we’re part of the modern world, and Africans say we don’t want that. We’re part of the so-called globalised world, with international trade, cultural exchanges and ideas. We also have a very open society and, of course, a marvelous constitution with everybody’s rights, no matter what colour, religion or sex.”

Though a white South African, Godimer used her works to fight against apartheid. She recalls, with a numbing shock, the sordid past of her country, “I was brought up in a white community, a white kid with privileges and things that weren’t privileges all, because when you live in a prison society, the oppressor also gets damaged. I went to a white convent school meant for white kids only. I went to movies on Saturdays. Only white kids were allowed into movies.

“But most important for me, as my life has gone by, I’ve realized more and more. I belonged to the local municipal library. If I had been a black, or my parents had been black adults, we couldn’t have used the library. To me, the library has been my education. So, to me, this is one of my terrible aspects of racism that I saw among my contemporaries growing up who happened to be of a different colour from ours.”

Passion springs up from her soft voice as she talks about the Aficaness of her works, “You’re influences by where you live and the views of your friends and society.” As she was growing up in the racist apartheid South Africa, she felt an urge to fight against apartheid. “By the time I was twelve years old, I could see there was something very wrong with the way the country was and the way we were living,” she says. Her mother also felt the same way. “That’s how I became anti-apartheid before apartheid ended.”

As an undergraduate, she mixed freely with black South Africans, despite the risk involved. “At the university [Witstersrand], it was segregated, but there some exceptions –there were black people. I met people with whom I had so much in common, who were all teaching ourselves to write than I had with white contemporaries with whom I was supposed to mix at home, which’d be interesting and completely accepting segregation. So, I quickly formed in my spot team friendships across the colour.”

Often Godimer comes across journalists who ask her what would be the focus of her writing with the demise of apartheid, and she thinks it is absurd. “We weren’t writing about apartheid; we were writing about people who shaped and were distorted and deformed by the kind of society which they lived. Now, there’s freedom from all that, and there are many different as well as political situations that people [writers]can choose to move in wherever they please,” she notes.

Contrary to the notion held by many on the dwindling reading culture in Nigeria, Godimer believes Nigerians read more than other African countries. She is higly impressed with  got Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka, two of the greats in African literature,” she says matter-of-factly. “Of course, you can’t be a writer if you haven’t got readers,” she adds.Nigerian literature, too. “You’ve

More than any other South African writer, her works were banned by the apartheid authorities for pillorying the policy. “I think that was really a kind of honour,” she confesses. Despite the ban on some of her books during the apartheid era, she smuggled some of the books from neighbouring countries. With the Censorship Board now moribund, all the books that were banned have been let off the hook. “We now have a law that’s against hate speech,” she discloses.

The Nobel laureate thinks literature is not doing what it ought to be doing in Africa. “No, it isn’t. Indeed, we have a big battle with the future of literature, not only Africa, but all over the world.” Old age is not a barrier to her creativity, however. “I published a new novel last year, Get Alive.” When it comes to the reception of her works by both blacks and whites, she is insouciant. “I don’t really bother about that. The fact that I’m white doesn’t bother me at all,” she intones.

She is delighted that her works are read by all in South Africa, “I feel I have earned my acceptance as a South African without distinction of colour. I think if you’re white, and you didn’t move yourself at all against the apartheid regime, then it’s difficult for black people to accept you now. I’m not conscious of any ill feeling against me at all. I’m very close with all my black comrade writers.”

Despite that the apartheid establishment outlawed the mainly black African National Congress (ANC), Godimer identified with it. In fact, she was a staunch member of the movement, which later became a political party. Does she believe in feminism? “No,” she dissents. “Literature is literature. If you’re gay and you’re writing a book about intimate relations, fine –it’s part of life. Of course, the same applies to women. But I don’t regard it as a writer.

“The fact that I am a woman is irrelevant. I have written a number of stories and two books with the leading characters from the point of view of a man, because writers have special ability to somehow identify across sexes. The most famous feminist passage in literature was written by the Irishman, James Joyce, in ‘Ulysses’,” she explains. Then, she gestures for moments of solitude –a respite from the barrage.

Nadine Godimer died on July 13, 2014


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Meditation Plus Running as a Treatment for Depression

Meditation Plus Running as a Treatment for Depression | conference interpreting, Comparative literature, translation, programme evaluation, didactics, current affairs |
Meditating before running could change the brain in ways that are more beneficial for mental health than practicing either of those activities alone.
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