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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Get a Life

Get a Life

A Novel

Nadine Gordimer

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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A young man's treatment for cancer inspires profound changes in his family.

Paul Bannerman, an ecologist in South Africa, believes he understands the trajectory of his life, with the usual markers of vocation and marriage. But when he's diagnosed with thyroid cancer and, after surgery, prescribed treatment that will leave him radioactive, for a period a danger to others, he begins to question, as Auden wrote, "what Authority gives / existence its surprise."

In the garden of his childhood home, where his businessman father, Adrian, and prominent civil rights lawyer mother, Lyndsay, take him in to protect his wife and child from radiation, he enters an unthinkable existence and another kind of illumination: the contradiction between the values of his work and those of his wife, Benni, an ad agency executive. His mother is transformed by the strange state of her son's existence to face her own past. Meanwhile, projects to build a nuclear reactor and drain vital wetlands preoccupy Paul as if he were at work. By the time he is cured, both families have been changed. On his return to his home and career, his parents go to Mexico to fulfill the archaeological vocation Adrian sacrificed to support his family. The consequence of this trip is the final surprise in this extraordinary exploration of passionate individual existences.

"This novel begins superbly and ends wonderfully, and in between there are passages of high intelligence, not without Gordimer's signature asperity.” -- Ward J… More…

A young man's treatment for cancer inspires profound changes in his family.

Paul Bannerman, an ecologist in South Africa, believes he understands the trajectory of his life, with the usual markers of vocation and marriage. But when he's diagnosed with thyroid cancer and, after surgery, prescribed treatment that will leave him radioactive, for a period a danger to others, he begins to question, as Auden wrote, "what Authority gives / existence its surprise."

In the garden of his childhood home, where his businessman father, Adrian, and prominent civil rights lawyer mother, Lyndsay, take him in to protect his wife and child from radiation, he enters an unthinkable existence and another kind of illumination: the contradiction between the values of his work and those of his wife, Benni, an ad agency executive. His mother is transformed by the strange state of her son's existence to face her own past. Meanwhile, projects to build a nuclear reactor and drain vital wetlands preoccupy Paul as if he were at work. By the time he is cured, both families have been changed. On his return to his home and career, his parents go to Mexico to fulfill the archaeological vocation Adrian sacrificed to support his family. The consequence of this trip is the final surprise in this extraordinary exploration of passionate individual existences.

"This novel begins superbly and ends wonderfully, and in between there are passages of high intelligence, not without Gordimer's signature asperity.” -- Ward Just, The Washington Post Book World

Less…

Excerpted from Get a Life by Nadine Gordimer. Copyright © 2005 by Nadine Gordimer Published in December 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.

i / Child's Play

Only the street-sweeper swishing his broom...

Praise for Get a Life

“[Gordimer] is a writer of exceptional poise, writing tight, with ruffles and flourishes kept to a minimum . . . This novel begins superbly and ends wonderfully, and in between there are passages of high intelligence, not without Gordimer's signature asperity.” —Ward Just, The Washington Post Book World

“A lacerating novel, one in which conflicted professional and domestic lives are played for all their contradictory possibility.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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Nadine Gordimer

Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014) was a Nobel Prize winner whose novels include the Booker Prize-winning The Conservationist, Commonwealth Writers’ Prize-winning The Pickup, and No Time Like the Present. Gordimer’s short story collections include Loot and Jump and Other Stories. She also published literary and political essay collections such as Living in Hope and History.

Gordimer was a vice president of PEN International and an executive member of the Congress of South African Writers. She was a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in Great Britain and a Commandeur of l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France).

image of Nadine Gordimero
Copyright Maureen Isaacson

Nadine Gordimer

New York Times Obituary

BBC News Obituary

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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