Nadine Gordimer is one of the pre-eminent writers of our time. She has published at least 30 novels. At the age of 85, she is still writing. Her style is spare and detached. We are not overloaded with unnecessary details, and are not manipulated to feel the emotions the writer deems important. The Pickup remains true to Gordimer’s unique style.
Gordimer has lived her entire life in South Africa: before, and during, the era of apartheid, and afterwards. The shadow of those years continues to affect all the characters and their personal interactions.
In The Pickup a young woman named Julie has car trouble. She becomes involved with the mechanic from the garage. He is an Arab Muslim, from a poor country in Africa which is never named. As an illegal immigrant to South Africa, he uses an assumed name and tries to live under the radar. Julie is from a wealthy “European” (aka white) family. As the relationship between Julie and Abdu develops, he becomes more noticed in the community. Eventually, he received a notice that he is to be deported.
We learn much more about Julie and her family as she attempts to use her connections to allow Abdu to stay in the country. When she is unsuccessful, they marry quickly and she returns with him to his country. As Julie adjusts to life in a poor Arab village on the edge of the desert, Abdu tries to obtain visas to emigrate legally to any developed nation.
This novel is beautifully written. It subtly raises a number of issues that important in the world today, without hitting us over the head with gory details or solutions to those problems. Once again, a great effort from a fine writer.
Published in hardcover-Farrar, Straus & Giroux-2001
Softcover edition-Penguin Books-2002