Nadine Gordimer on Dividing Fact from Fiction

Nadine-Gordimer-006 Emma Brockes in The Guardian:

Nadine Gordimer is 87 this year and as resistant to autobiography as ever. The Nobel prize winner, small, chic, straight-backed as a dancer, says “my private life is my private life” – a practical as well as a moral concern: what she calls the “jealous hoarding of private experience for transmutation into fiction”.

It makes reading her non-fiction, collected earlier this year in a single volume and plain to the point of snappish, an exercise in sifting for lapses: the “bun-faced” nuns who taught her at school; her early “talent for showing off”. The only thing that could deflect her from work, she once wrote, was “being in love”, whereupon everything else flew out the window. She smiles indulgently. “Yes, I used to make bargains. I used to say I don't care if that book's published or not, it's the man that I want.”

It is, for Gordimer, a year of collections; on the heels of the non-fiction, an equally large volume of collected stories, both covering a period from the early 1950s, when she started writing, to the present. It is a huge amount of work – “you're surprised that you've worked so hard” – and not even the main event. “That's nothing,” she says, of the essays. “That was just on the side. Fiction is what really matters.” Her writings about politics served a purpose, surely?