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Last Updated: Friday, 6 June, 2003, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
Gordimer looks towards end
Tidal wave
Loot sees a greedy mankind wiped out by a tidal wave
Nobel prize-winning author Nadine Gordimer has a bleak outlook for the future in her latest book of short stories.

The new collection - entitled Loot - from the South African writer, who is now 80, contains 10 stories, focusing on idealism, greed and death.

Karma, the last of these, sees Gordimer questioning the very nature of existence itself.

"It's because I'm getting so old," she told BBC World Service's The Ticket programme, which is broadcast on Saturday.

Although Karma is told through the eyes of a narrator who returns to five different earthly bodies, Gordimer said she had no such similar beliefs.

"I have no religion - I'm an atheist, and I don't believe in any afterlife," she stated.

"Sometimes I can envy people who do - if you love someone and then lose them it would be very nice to think you're going to meet one day, but I know that this doesn't happen.

"To me if you see a dead bird, you know that that's the end of it."

Apartheid chronicler

It is now 71 years since Gordimer, whose novels detailed life under South Africa's apartheid regime, first began writing.

A white woman who joined the African National Congress (ANC) while outlawed, and a friend of Nelson Mandela, Gordimer became the literary voice of the anti-apartheid movement.

Nadine Gordimer
Gordimer began writing when she was nine
"In my case I began to write stories - why? Because I was reading a great many stories," Gordimer said.

"I began to - rather hesitantly - tell the stories of the life around me, and how it was impacting on me and how I was relating to it."

She added that her initial impulse to write about what was happening in South Africa came from reading about life in other parts of the world.

"When you're 11 or 12 years old, you begin to think about why, and ask yourself questions," she said.

She said that one such occasion was seeing black miners having to buy items by standing behind a metal grille and pointing.

"Young as I was, I thought, 'when I go into town with my mother and we go into a shop, and try on 15 dresses, and this is just the way it is - why?'."

Indeed, the title of another of Loot's stories is The Diamond Mine, which tells the story of a young woman's sexual liberation, while her Mission Statement story examining the ghosts of colonialism.

'Realistic optimist'

And though South Africa is now a democracy, Gordimer remains very concerned about the future of the country, although she added that she was a "realistic optimist."

"We are faced with building an equal society and a democracy in less than a decade," she said.

SA president Thabo Mbeki playing golf
Gordimer says South Africa must try harder
"It's only nine years, and to me the question is are we trying hard enough?

"We are trying very hard, but it's harder than we thought it would be."

Gordimer added that she felt her loyalty to the ANC through the years gave her the right to be critical of the way the country was currently being governed.

"I don't believe in my country, right or wrong," she said.

"You have the right - and indeed the duty - to be critical.

"I think that, considering the huge burden from the past, we have done extraordinarily well."

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