cover image No Time Like the Present

No Time Like the Present

Nadine Gordimer. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-0-374-22264-2

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.)