Who picked up whom? Is the pickup the illegal immigrant desperate to evade deportation to his impoverished desert country? Or is the pickup the powerful businessman's daughter trying to escape a privileged background she despises? When Julie Summers' car breaks down in the sleazy street where she meets her Retro-Sixties friends, a young Arab ...
Who picked up whom? Is the pickup the illegal immigrant desperate to evade deportation to his impoverished desert country? Or is the pickup the powerful businessman's daughter trying to escape a privileged background she despises? When Julie Summers' car breaks down in the sleazy street where she meets her Retro-Sixties friends, a young Arab garage mechanic emerges from beneath the chassis of a vehicle to aid her. Out of this meeting develops an extraordinary story of unpredictable and relentless emotions that turn on its head each one's notions of the other. No action by either is what the other expects. She insists, against his know-how of the rules of survival, on leaving the country with him when he is deported. The love affair becomes a marriage - that state she regards as a social convention appropriate to her father's set - but decreed by her 'grease-monkey' (as her friends privately dub him) in order to present her respectably to his family. In the Arab village, while he is dedicated to escaping, again to what he believes is a fulfilling life in Western-style countries, she is drawn by a counter-magnet of new affinities in his close family and the omnipresence of the desert.
The style is intriguing, it reminds me of a lesser version of Disgrace. I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Oct 2, 2007
Forms of Unknowing
Nobel Prize awardee Nadine Gordimer's career has always been consonant with the fate of her native country, South Africa. She brings an acute intelligence and sensibility to delineating the human relationships between her black and white South African characters in masterful novels such as Burger's Daughter and A Sport of Nature. In The Pickup, the central relationship between a woman of privilege and an Arab garage mechanic, who is also an illegal immigrant, becomes symbolic of the uneasy bond between Islam and the West, and the mutual forms of unknowing. In this late novel, Gordimer's use of present tense and her clipped, convoluted sentences mirror the couple's uncertainties, ignorances, withholdings, and differences. While the prose lacks the sensuous abundance of the earlier novels, it is one of her most compelling. Gordimer's understanding of social relations between those who "own" and those seeking an "alternative" is quite uncanny.
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