The Life of the Mine

Remembering Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014)

Business Day | 22 July 2014.

‘…From the first lines of her first novel, The Lying Days, her prose has been scoured clean of any naïve lyricism. Its opening chapter, ‘The Mine’, unfolds as a virtuoso piece of descriptive prose: a complex narrative voice weaves us through the complex social geography of Rec Club and Married Quarters, of concession stores and the Compound, from where the general manager ‘borrows’ teams of off-shift miners to tend his enormous, lush garden. As someone who also grew up on a deep-level mining town, I can remember the extraordinary scale of these Company gardens, watered with undrinkable effluent from the workings underground, spilling all the way down the slope to the golf course where that contaminated water could still be smelt on all the fairways…’

Those single unshaded bulbs which burned everywhere in the prodigality of ‘mine electricity’, making the mine’s own daylight in sheds and offices and fly-screened Quarters of the Property, go out – following economic decrees as apparently immutable as natural laws.

Nadine Gordimer, On the Mines (1973).