Constructing Character in an Unequal World: Nadine Gordimer’s The Pickup and the Necessity of World Literature

Boldrini, Lucia. 2020. Constructing Character in an Unequal World: Nadine Gordimer’s The Pickup and the Necessity of World Literature. Foreign Language and Literature Research, 2020(4), pp. 9-28. ISSN 1003-6822 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Nadine Gordimer’s The Pickup (2001) tells the story of white South African Julie and illegal immigrant Abdu in cosmopolitan, post-Apartheid Johannesburg; when he is expelled from South Africa, she moves with him to his village at the edge of the desert in an unnamed Arab country, finally finding a sense of home and belonging in the very place that he is desperate to escape. The novel’s concerns with migration, globalisation, the sense of home, how inequality robs individuals of geography and history, with shame, prejudice, making assumptions, and the possibility and impossibility of love, are explored through the adopting of an apparently awkward, self-conscious narrative voice that complicates the illusions of realism and foregrounds the tension between mimesis and artifice, reflecting how we seek to make sense of others in the world, including foreign and ghostly others. Gordimer’s novel posits the necessity for literature to accept its responsibility to be world literature, enjoining us to be attentive to the languages we speak or neglect to speak (or even refuse to hear), the translations we perform and the untranslatabilities we recognize; to how we are caught, circulate, and are complicit in a world of economic, legal and historical inequality; to our own foreignness in what we call home, how we make others foreign in their home, and how we can open ourselves to the foreign.

Item Type:



Nadine Gordimer, The Pickup, character, realism, migration, globalization, world literature

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


31 July 2020Accepted
20 August 2020Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

03 Sep 2020 10:16

Last Modified:

12 Jun 2021 14:47

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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