The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer

Description: When Julie Summers’s car breaks down on a sleazy street in a South African city, a young Arab mechanic named Abdu comes to her aid. Their attraction to one another is fueled by different motives. Julie is in rebellion against her wealthy background and her father; Abdu, an illegal immigrant, is desperate to avoid deportation to his impoverished country. In the course of their relationship, there are unpredictable consequences, and overwhelming emotions will overturn each one’s notion of the other. Set in the new South Africa and in an Arab village in the desert, The Pickup is “a masterpiece of creative empathy . . . a gripping tale of contemporary anguish and unexpected desire, and it also opens the Arab world to unusually nuanced perception” (Edward W. Said)

Opening: Clustered predators round a kill. It’s a small car with a young woman inside it. The battery has failed and taxis, cars, minibuses, vans, motorcycles butt and challenge one another, reproach and curse her, a traffic mob mount-ing its own confusion. Get going. Stupid bloody woman.

Idikazana lomlungu, le! She throws up hands, palms open, in surrender. They continue to jostle and blare their impatience.

She gets out of her car and faces them. One of the unemployed black men who beg by waving vehicles into parking bays sidles his way deftly through fenders, signals with his head—Oka-ay, Oka-ay go inside, go!—and mimes control of the steering wheel. Another like him appears, and they push her and her car into a loading bay. The street hustles on.

Not a fan of the writing style but the reverse migrant experience made for an interesting juxtaposition.

3* July’s People
3* The Pickup

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