is a novel by Nadine Gordimer, a South African writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991.
Get a Life, her most recent novel, was published in 2005.
It's the story of Capetown ecologist Paul Bannerman who finds his life upended when he is diagnosed with thyroid cancer. After having surgery, he receives radiation therapy, and is told that he will be radioactive for some weeks.
This means he cannot have contact with his three-year-old son, nor with his wife who would then have contact with his son. His parents, as parents will, assume the risk, and care for him in their home.
During his quarantine, Bannerman reflects on his life and his love of the land. His love for his wife Berenice/Bennie (whom he thinks of as personalities as distinct as her given name and nickname). She is an advertising executive, and as such, supports an industry of growth and developement that is often at odds with his passionate environmentalism.
Also affected by his isolation are his parents who, for a time resume parental roles, his son, who cannot understand why his father is not there, his environmental colleagues, Thapelo and Derek.
There are dozens of threads woven through this novel: class and poverty, race and apartheid, cancer and AIDS, interpersonal relationships, love and sex, nature, development and exploitation, money and power, honesty and betrayal.
All straightforwardly presented through Gordimer's dense, clear superb prose. It's a fine book, requiring a certain amount of reflection in the reading. Maybe not requiring it so much as inviting it. I suppose it could be read in an afternoon, but I had to stop every few pages and digest it. Nevertheless, there was no toil, no work to reading it. Instead, it was like eating a rich dish, delicious and concentrated.
Gordimer has been awarded fifteen honorary degrees in the U.S., Belgium, South Africa, and the U.K. (York, Oxford and Cambridge).
I look forward to working my way backward through her books.
[Image from Cornell University New Student Reading Project]