Of all South African novels, Nadine Gordimer's The Conservationist is the most deeply rooted in the nation's master narrative about land: a stirring, half-myth story of colonial dispossession and restitution. This investment is manifested if we read the novel in New Historicist fashion, by putting it side by side with a revealing minor document of the period from which it arises. The Conservationist remains Gordimer's most brilliant achievement and brings into play some themes significant to any investigation of the politics of place in South Africa. In 1974, the very year of the novel's publication and the prime point of apartheid's “dynamic third decade,” the Farmers' Association of Ladysmith in Natal wrote a letter to officials of the apartheid government asking them to give full priority in their so-called Resettlement Program to the elimination of a certain “black spot,” the freehold settlement of Roosboom just south of the town.
Keywords: Nadine Gordimer; The Conservationist; black spot; third decade; Farmers' Association; New Historicist
Chapter. 14170 words.
Full text: subscription required