Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Qunta wrong to attack Gordimer

Passing judgement without reading the book? Or is Qunta's intervention an example of venting rage on an arbitrarily chosen target and reducing rational discussion of important issues to diatribe and noise? Guest contributor Karen Lazar responds to Christine Qunta's recent newspaper piece, "Author's a colonial construction."

In putting herself in cosy public alliance with Ronald Suresh Roberts in her comment article, "Author's a colonial construction" (The Star, May 9) on the basis of inaccuracy and misreading, Christine Qunta calls her own comments into question. She perpetuates the misrepresentations of the writings and social vision of Nadine Gordimer.

One of Qunta's most outrageous claims is that Gordimer and her "friends in the white liberal elite" were irritated by Roberts because he is "one of those natives who does not know his place".

This sort of portraiture merely reinforces the biographer's aggrieved self-marketing. Moreover, this is a rank distortion of the complexities of the breaches of trust which played out in the publication of No Cold Kitchen.

Qunta implicitly claims - wholly mysteriously - to share with Roberts a knowledge of "Gordimer as she really is", all the while citing her pieces out of context and embarrassingly selectively.

Since Qunta cannot know Gordimer but can only generalise speciously about her, this "comment" is as "unscientific" as that which Qunta lays at the author's door.

Qunta's biggest error is to grant herself the right to pass judgment on Gordimer on the basis of Roberts' book, rather than on Gordimer's books; the three to four pages of which she has read are hardly an adequate platform from which to make racially inflected sideswipes.

The tortured longevity and brutalities arising out of the faultlines of colonialism and apartheid have occupied none other than Gordimer for six decades, with a scrupulous, humane, and self-scrutinising pen: across 13 novels, hundreds of short stories and hundreds of critical essays and addresses. The white liberalism Qunta lumps Gordimer in, has also been one of her subjects of critique and enquiry.

Qunta would do well to do some substantial independent research next time before turning her boredom into journalistic diatribe.

Karen Lazar

For my review of Roberts' biography of Gordimer, No Cold Kitchen, visit http://www.newnationconsulting.co.za/cold_kitchen_25012005.html. See also the letter by the Minister of Defence, M. Lekota, entitled Which Gordimer is Qunta talking about?, The Star, 17 May 2007. FM.

No comments: