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The Moment Before the Gun Went Off

Published: 12.09.2010, Updated: 03.03.2017
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Nadine Gordimer. Photo.Nadine Gordimer The South African policy of apartheid, of separating whites, blacks and coloured, gradually came to an end in the early 1990s and Nelson Mandela became the first president in the new South Africa based on majority rule. As a system of political oppression apartheid existed for more than 50 years. The system was put under pressure from the outside and it was fought from inside South Africa. Militant blacks were one group fighting it. Another grouping consisted of radical and liberal whites who openly voiced their criticism. Among these, Nadine Gordimer played a prominent part in her writing. Her political visions of a post-apartheid South Africa led to the banning of several of her books. However, despite the censorship of South Africa she received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991.

In the following short story by her, set in the years preceding the fall of apartheid, Marais van der Vyver, a white South African, shoots one of his black farm labourers and kills him. The death attracts considerable publicity, and Marais soon discovers there are a lot of people who have their own interpretation of the events. But there is one fact they could never guess - and which he can never tell them.

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