No Time Like the Present

( 5 )


?A perfect example of what literature can give us that history books cannot.??Francine Prose, The New York Times Book Review


A New York Times Book Review Editors? Choice


Steve and Jabulile, once clandestine lovers under a racist law forbidding sexual relations between black and white, are living in a newly free South Africa. Both were combatants in the struggle against apartheid, and now, he, a university lecturer, and she, a ...

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No Time Like the Present

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“A perfect example of what literature can give us that history books cannot.”—Francine Prose, The New York Times Book Review


A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice


Steve and Jabulile, once clandestine lovers under a racist law forbidding sexual relations between black and white, are living in a newly free South Africa. Both were combatants in the struggle against apartheid, and now, he, a university lecturer, and she, a lawyer, are parents of children born in freedom. But as the ideals of this “better life for all” are challenged by the realities of the world around them, Steve and Jabulile consider leaving the country they so vehemently fought to free.

The subject in No Time Like the Present is contemporary, but Nadine Gordimer’s treatment is, as ever, timeless. In the telling of this conflicted couple, she captures the fragmented essence of a nation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Nobel laureate Gordimer’s latest novel (after the story collection Life Times), set in contemporary South Africa, revolves around Steve, who’s Jewish, and Jabulile (Jabu), who’s black. Both were “comrades” in the fight for racial equality (Steve used his industrial chemistry degree to make explosives “to blow up the regime”; Jabu spent three months in a Johannesburg prison for her work with the “Freedom Fighters from South Africa.”) Married and starting a family in a middle-class suburb, they’ve “bought ourselves a house while others including comrades... are still under tin and cardboard.” With the “Struggle” seemingly behind them, all that remains is to repair their broken country, Steve as a college professor concerned with the continued lack of educational equality, Jabu as a lawyer working for justice. But as their children grow up, civil and political unrest keeps pace, forcing them to re-evaluate their position in this new South Africa. Gordimer’s novel is teeming with fascinating descriptions of the postapartheid zeitgeist, but rushed along by a breathless narrative that makes any examination of the relationships between characters difficult, and ultimately keeps them from becoming anything more than political avatars. Agent: Tim Seldes, Russell & Volkening. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
A biracial couple faces both personal and political issues in South Africa after the Struggle. In many ways Steve and Jabulile seem to have bridged the difficult gap from pre- to post-Apartheid life. They move to a suburb, have two children--a girl, Sindi, and a boy, Gary Elias--and seem to be living the new dream. Steve, a chemical engineer, finds a teaching position at a local university, and Jabu moves from her position as a teacher at a Catholic school to the study of law. Her native language is isiZulu, and Steve decides he wants to learn the language when Sindi is young so he can be drawn even closer to his daughter. But ripples begin to develop in their seemingly placid life, for politics in the era after Mandela is scarcely Edenic. Jacob Zuma is running for president, and he brings with him the political liability of suspicion of corruption by having enriched himself in questionable arms deals. Women are routinely raped, and Jabu is sometimes called in to help in their defense. (She finds out to her horror that one in four South African men have confessed to rape.) On the personal front, Steve attends a conference in London and has a brief but intense fling, thereby violating what had been an unshakable bond with Jabu. With the growing unrest becoming an almost daily part of their lives, Steve begins to look at the prospect of their emigrating to Australia--though he neglects to tell Jabu that he's even considering this possibility. Against this political and personal turmoil, Jabu has centering conversations with her father, a minister with a long memory of time and history. Gordimer writes movingly and piercingly about the struggles after the Struggle.
Francine Prose
very much worth the trip for the sharp and affecting views of human interaction that the novel invites us to contemplate and explore…As always, Gordimer excels at pulling back for a panoramic vista of a time and place, then narrowing her focus to remind us of the highly specific ways that politics shape the private lives of unique individuals, people not unlike ourselves. Only a novelist with Gordimer's gifts can offer so much information, at such depth, about the cataclysmic battles and the rough transition to peace that she and her characters have witnessed, a war she survived to report on to us, her grateful readers.
—The New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher
No Time Like the Present is Gordimer’s best novel since her first, The Lying Days.”—-Susan Salter Reynolds, Newsday


“To read No Time Like the Present is to plunge into the cauldron that is South Africa today.... Although she is eighty-eight, Gordimer has all the enthusiasm of youth as she celebrates what she sees all around her. Her approach is kaleidoscopic.”—-Los Angeles Times


“Gordimer sees history, power, and a gnawing desire for something secular yet entwined in every mundane gesture. The personal remains political even when the great political fight has been won.”—-Maureen Corrigan, NPR


“Every once in a while, you begin to read a book and suddenly realize you are experiencing greatness. This is such a book….There are few, if any, writers today who can match Nadine Gordimer….May she never stop.”—-The Washington Times


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374222642
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/27/2012
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 694,373
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Nadine Gordimer, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991, is the author of fourteen novels, more than ten volumes of stories, and three nonfiction collections. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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Read an Excerpt


By Nadine Gordimer

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC

Copyright © 2012 Nadine Gordimer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-374-22264-2

Chapter One

Glengrove Place. It isn't a glen and there isn't a grove. It must have been named by a Scot or Englishman for features of a home left behind, when he made money in this city at more than five thousand feet and entered the property market enterprise.

But it has been a place. It was somewhere they could live— together, when there wasn't anywhere to do so lawfully. The rent for the apartment was high, for them then, but it included a certain complicity on the part of the owner of the building and the caretaker, nothing comes for nothing when law-abiding people are taking some risk of breaking the law. As a tenant, he had the kind of English- or European-sounding name no different from others usual on the tenants' mailboxes beside the elevator in the entrance; a potted cactus decorative there, if there was no grove. She was simply the added appendage 'Mrs'. They actually were married, although that was unlawful, too. In the neighbouring country where she had gone into exile just over the border to study, and he, a young white man whose political affiliations made it necessary for him to disappear from the university in the city for a time, they, imprudently ignoring the consequence inevitable back home, had fallen in love and got themselves married.

Back home in South Africa, she became a teacher at a private school run by the Fathers of a Catholic order tolerated outside state-segregated education, able there to use her natal surname on non-racial principles. She was black, he was white. That was all that mattered. All that was identity then. Simple as the black letters on this white page. It was in those two identities that they transgressed. And got away with it, more rather than less. They were not visible enough, politically well known enough to be worth prosecution under the Immorality Act, better to be watched, followed if they might, on the one hand, make footprints which could lead to more important activists, or on the chance they might be candidates for recruitment to report back from whatever level, dissident to revolutionary, they were privy to. In fact, he was one of those who, while a student, had been sidled up to with finely judged suggestions either of the cause of patriotic loyalty or, maybe, youth's equally assumed natural lack of funds, and had it made clear to him not to worry, he'd be ensured of his own safety and no longer be so hard up if he would remember what was said in the huddles where it was known he was present and had his part. Swallowing a gob of disgust and mimicking the tone of the approach, he refused—not that the man recognised rejection not only of the offer but also of the man who had agreed to be a political police pimp.

She was black, but there's a great deal more to that now than what was the beginning and end of existence as recorded in an outdated file of an outdated country, even though the name hasn't changed. She was born back in that time; her name is a signature to the past from which she comes, christened in the Methodist church where one of her grandfathers had been a pastor and her father, headmaster at a local school for black boys, was an Elder, her mother chairlady of the church ladies' society. The Bible was the source of baptismal first names along with the second, African ones, with which white people, whom the child would grow up to have to please, deal with in this world, had no association of identity. Rebecca Jabulile.

He was white. But that's also not as definitive as coded in old files. Born in the same past era, a few years before her, he's a white mix—that was of no significance so long as the elements were white. Actually, his mix is quite complicated in certain terms of identity not determined by colour. His father was a gentile, secular, nominally observant Christian, his mother Jewish. It is the mother's identity which is decisive in the identity of a Jew, the mother whom one can be sure of when it comes to parental conception. If the mother is Jewish that is the claim for her son within the faith, and of course this implies ritual circumcision. His father evidently raised no objection, perhaps like many agnostics even atheists he secretly envied those practising the illusion of a religious faith—or was it indulgence for the wife he loved. If that's what she wanted, important to her in a way he didn't understand. Let the foreskin be cut.


Excerpted from NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT by Nadine Gordimer Copyright © 2012 by Nadine Gordimer. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2012

    Very well written

    This is one of the most beautiful books I ever read! You feel the character's emotions, and the author makes ordinary events compelling. You feel what apraheid left behind and how there is still some of it left.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 15, 2012

    didn't like it

    I wanted to read this for a book club, but could not get past a couple of chapters and have given up on it.

    This was written by a reputable, highly praised author, so it could be me. However, my impression was that it was written in a dense style in which the structure of a sentence was wrested from its usual flow into a collection of words to be pondered, worked on, I want to say, unscrambled. I do not believe this added to the novel and in my case it sunk it.

    Additionally, the personalities of the mixed-marriage couple were flat and showed no indivuality beyond the contrast between how a black woman in South Africa was raised versus how a white man was raised. They just seemed to be types that went along with South African society.

    Terrorism is presented as the thing to do. I don't agree, even when the cause is socially popular.

    Maybe if I read further I would have changed my opinion, but the experience was so unpleasant I guess I'll never know.

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  • Posted May 8, 2012

    Minor Gordimer

    No Time Like The Present is one of Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer's minor pieces of fiction. The writing is strained and thick; the characters not fully fleshed and the overall impact only a whisper where it needed a shout. I am a Gordimer fan, and this fiction was a big disappointment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2012

    Good ideas presented in terrible prose make this book a frustrat

    Good ideas presented in terrible prose make this book a frustrating read. This is just poor craftmanship.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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