Burger's Daughter
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Burger's Daughter

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  933 ratings  ·  81 reviews
A depiction of South Africa today, this novel is more revealing than a thousand news dispatches as it tells the story of a young woman cast in the role of a young revolutionary, trying to uphold a heritage handed on by martyred parents while carving out a sense of self.
Paperback, 361 pages
Published November 20th 1980 by Penguin Books (first published 1979)
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Nov 22, 2011 E rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
I wanted to enjoy this so much more than I did. A story nearly strangled by apartheid written by an author with an indisputable knack for conveying tension in its many forms showed so much promise. But the stream of consciousness had me reading in circles. Even the dialogue became tedious as irregular punctuation obscured the sequence of speakers. The protagonist was too detached from all the other characters for my taste, preventing me from empathizing or understanding anyone in any profound se...more
May 22, 2007 Sara rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Aspiring activists
At what point do you choose what you are already born into? Gordimer explores this puzzle in her densely lyrical novel, spinning out a fictional life for a fictional daughter of a fictional white anti-apartheid activist in 1970s South Africa. The daughter's ambivalence about having been born into a family committed to the cause, her clear-eyed assessments of the tensions and fault lines within the movement, and her memories of what happens to a family constantly struggling against society are wh...more
Ooh. Ouch. Writing in fragments. I get it. Important South African Literature. I get it. Nobel Prize winning author. I get it.
Writing a book in which nothing happens. I don't get it.
There's much to the writing here, but it's just not worth the effort.
An essay disguised as a novel. Boooo!
Thank god this book is over. It was fascinating as a work of historical fiction on apartheid-era South Africa, and as a character sketch of someone who was born into the upper echelons of White anti-apartheid society but who lacked her own strong convictions on the topic. Otherwise, Nadine Gordimer lost me completely with her stream-of-consciousness-style narration and lack of a coherent plot. I can appreciate her beautiful use of language, but 360 pages of not understanding what’s going on tend...more
Brenda C Kayne
A painful story of a South African woman whose life depicts the ultra-discomfort of being between-a-rock-and-a-hard place. Her dilemma is much more excruciating than most people. She must make the decision as a young adult to follow in the harrowing and often humiliating life of her deceased, activist parents or whether to reside in the safer world of the intellectual expatriot.

Before one can judge her should she choose the safer less altruistic route, the devastating social structures of arpar...more
A story set in South Africa in the sixties and seventies and tells the story of Rosa Burger, daughter of Lionel Burger. Rosa’s parents were Afrikaner Marxists and political activists who opposed apartheid. Rosa loses both her parents to the political struggle. Her dad died in prison. Rosa has no identity of her own and she has no private life. Everything for Rosa is “because I am my father’s daughter” pg 62. He role is imprinted on her. The book explores the impact of apartheid on the people of...more
Until I read this novel, years ago, I had very simplistic views of South Africa. "Burger's Daughter" changed that.

While telling the story of an individual young woman growing up in a well-known activist family and learning to discover her own identity, Gordimer also paints a broad and detailed picture of life in South Africa among those who fought apartheid while Mandela was still in prison.

It is a rich cast of characters, black and white, who find their strength and their joy in their heroic re...more
Now I understand why Gordimer was awarded the Nobel for literature.

It is the mid-1970s. Rosa Burger is the grown daughter of white South African Communist activists, has grown up surrounded by their ideals and their actions to build solidarity between blacks and whites to bring down the Apartheid regime; she has lived only among those who live for the cause, the Future. After her parents die (her mother of cancer, her father in prison) Rosa is left to try for the first time to define herself. Th...more
Jim Leckband
One of the saddest books I've read in a long time - but one that has a happier ending after the last page than the one Gordimer wrote. The futility of liberal whites and blacks in apartheid-era South Africa to change the oppression permeates all through the book.

Change finally did come to South Africa, but I'm sure that people in the 70's had no idea how it could come. From terrorism? From civil unrest and disobedience? From a coup? From a communist overthrow? The last option that it would be go...more
This is one of those books that I really appreciate now that I'm done but didn't really enjoy reading. It starts out very slow and if you like a lot of action, then it doesn't improve, but it gets more compelling, and it became more enjoyable to read once I got used to the narrative switching from first person to third person without much warning and the hard-to-follow tangents. And in discussing the book with my boo club, I was able to see it as a fascinating and beautifully written account of...more
This is the story of Rosa Burger, a young woman raised by political dissidents in apartheid South Africa, who now must decide what role she will play in her country. Gordimer is the grand dame of modern, white South African writers, and this is my favorite of her novels. The narrative style could be a bit disconcerting for some because it varies from straightforward to stream of consciousness, but the personal dilemma at the core of it - choosing between a private life or one that is political i...more
Very hard book to read because of all the liberties the author takes with punctuation, for one thing - many passages filled with dashes in which it's not clear who is saying what? Or thinking what? But even more so because it's written from a world view that has problems with the underlying philosophies that drive most western fiction, to do with an early/mid 20th century critique of individuality developed by the movement known as Communism. Which is what I'm telling myself as I try to figure o...more
this book is incredibly dense, but beautifully written, once you adapt to gordimer's style, which she forces you to do with her brutal talent.

it's a good read for someone constantly struggling with the question of what to do with social injustice, especially when it is legally sanctioned--of how to reconcile the personal and political, or how to admit all of your contradictory parts.
During the first half of the book I found it difficult to maintain interest. The narrative seemed dated and hasn't held up well. But I'm glad I kept reading. The second half was much more engaging and main character matures in a way that negates my criticism of the first half of the book.
Nana Fredua-Agyeman
Nadine Gordimer's Burger's Daughter is not an easy read. The author, probably mirrored the lives of the people: natives and the whites who were against the apartheid system at the time, in her prose. For reading this seemingly melancholic novel, the reader would feel the desolation, the destruction, the emotional torture, the emasculation of ideas and of works, the impotency of one filled with verve without a vent or valve. The reader would go through several tortuous moments, reflecting the liv...more
I had to read this book for my Contemporary Novel class at school. With that being said, I had never heard of the book before and probably would've never read this book otherwise. The book was all right and was a very well-thought out book, but it did a little too much that came off as pretentious to me, and ultimately made the book a difficult read when it really didn't have to be. I'm not going to bother with a cut, as this review won't be very long and will remain spoiler-free.

One of the firs...more
Cydni Perkins
This is the second Nobel Prize-winning book I've tried, and it's the second one I haven't loved. (The other one was All The Names by Jose Saramago.) When critics say Gordimer's style is deeply lyrical, moving, and filled with insightful observations about life and human nature, this is true. The prose is understated and beautiful. But I've always disliked stream of consciousness writing. I know it's old-fashioned, but I want the dialogue to clearly convey who is speaking and what they're talking...more
I've never read Gordimer before, aside from a short story in an anthology, so it's hard for me to say whether or not this is representative of her other novels and stories.... but it sure felt idiosyncratic, and brilliant, and wonderful.

Burger's daughter concerns Rosa Burger, daughter of famous white political activist Lionel Burger who dies in jail opposing apartheid. The novel, really, is this super-dense and involved exploration of the psychology of the daughter as she tries to work her way t...more
This was the second novel by Nadine Gordimer that I have read; several years ago I read her short novel, July's People. I wish this novel had been a bit shorter, for I did not enjoy reading it. The story follows the life of Rosa, the title character, as she comes to terms with her father Lionel's legacy as an activist in the South African Communist Party over the course of 30 years. The perspective shifts between Rosa's internal monologue (often directed towards her father or her sometimes lover...more
Oct 18, 2012 Janice added it
This was a reread, and it was every bit as brilliant the second time around. Rosa Burger lives in a place (South Africa during apartheid) in which political disengagement isn't an option. Her parents were heroes of the anti-apartheid movement. Everyone expects her to follow in their footsteps. And she feels that expectation like a jail sentence. This time around, I particularly liked her strategy to sort herself out: to seek out her father's first wife and embrace her footloose bohemian life in...more
I read this book junior year in college as part of a post-colonial fiction class (thank you, Josna) and didn't remember it being anything remarkable. Now that I'm headed to SA in a few months, I thought it made sense to dredge up some of these books that I've read before but don't remember with any specificity -- this one was great! Definitely on the more dense side than not, but I think the story is worthwhile and sheds light on the fact that not all whites agreed with apartheid. I am still up...more
Aug 29, 2014 Lizzie marked it as to-read
Been wanting to catch up with more Gordimer, but never sure where to start.
Still combing through the 500 Great Books By Women book list, which got set up as a Goodreads group, and tracking the demographics via spreadsheet (and so can yoouuu).
Gordimer, Nadine. BURGER’S DAUGHTER. (1979). **.
This is the first novel I’ve read by this author, and although I was certainly impressed with her skill with language, the novel doesn’t seem to have much else to offer. It’s a story we have heard before – probably from this Nobel Prize winning author. It’s the story, right out of the tabloids, about a young girl whose parents were tried and convicted for their political beliefs. Both of them died in prison. The trials that the young girl has to g...more
Chris O'Brien
I can't really explain why I read this whole book. As a lament about the plight of white lefty activists in South Africa in the mid-1970s, it feels beyond dated. However, the reason I began reading in the first place was simple. I bought this book back in college, back when I was studying South African history, when that seemed like an urgent topic. I picked up this book for $2 and it has sat on my shelf ever since, following me everywhere. Finally, a few weeks ago I figured I had to either read...more
I don't know what to say about this book except that:
1) I wish I could write like this.
2) It just felt so oozy and sensual, even when discussing political tea meetings. Amazing.
3) A character who you get to know as she is getting to know herself. Wow.

All reasons to recommend this book to every man, woman, and child, no? But somehow I just can't. I like "a story" and the dreamy discovery of where identity and political responsibility intersect somehow was a tension I could feel tense about, but...more
Feb 03, 2014 C.S. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
It was interesting to read about South Africa's apartheid. Although a great subject, her writing is at times filled with jargon one has to look up, and she's not necessarily a fan of commas, so this made reading it a bit difficult, but it didn't detract from the story or the message.
Elizabeth Huergo
I love to teach this novel because it is not anything most students are used to reading. Most readers look for plot, which is reasonable. Great literature and great plots often go hand-in-hand, consider Dickens, for example. But here the "plot" is the coming to consciousness of a young woman. What are her values exactly? Are they the same as her parents', both of whom were political activists against the apartheid regime? Or are they the values of the ex-pats she meet in France? Gordimer charts...more
Marc L
This was a disappointment. I had high expectations, because Gordimer is a Nobelpricewinner and any book on the apartheidsregime in South Africa must be interisting. But after 100 pages, I quit reading. The story on Rosa Burger, daughter of white communist activists against apartheid, did not appeal to me. I just could't get into the story: the writing was too dispassionate and also difficult by the continuous shifting of perspectives and time. I guess Gordimer tried to present to us the difficul...more
Fascinating characters: internal conflicts, character development, precise language - I love it! Rosa Burger really came alive for me. Nadine Gordimer really is one of the greatest contemporary writers, I respect her hugely for her style and her integrity.
The one star is missing due to the huge detail and length of passages dealing with the political situation in ZA. Yes, I know it's necessary to describe the characters and the story, but a bit less would have been sufficient in my view. But per...more
Great introspection in what it is like to be saddled with a heritage that you may or may not want. However --- this was a bear to read. From the font style to the sentence structure, it was tedious. I constantly had to go back to try to figure out who was talking because instead of using quotes, my edition used dashes coming and going within the confines of the same paragraph. These are silly things, really, but make it difficult to read. Aside from that, I wonder whether this was originally an...more
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500 Great Books B...: Burger's Daughter - Nadine Gordimer 1 1 Jul 18, 2014 03:33PM  
  • A Question of Power
  • You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town
  • A Dry White Season
  • In the Heart of the Country
  • A Grain of Wheat
  • Ancestral Voices
  • Aké: The Years of Childhood
  • God's Bits of Wood
  • The Heart of Redness
  • The Joys of Motherhood
  • The Flanders Road
  • Arrow of God
  • Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow, and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa
  • Two Thousand Seasons
  • African Laughter: Four Visits to Zimbabwe
  • Mine Boy
  • A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Woman Confronts the Legacy of Apartheid
  • Red Dust: A Novel
Nadine Gordimer was a South African writer, political activist and recipient of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature. She was recognized as a woman "who through her magnificent epic writing has – in the words of Alfred Nobel – been of very great benefit to humanity".

Gordimer's writing dealt with moral and racial issues, particularly apartheid in South Africa. Under that regime, works such as Burger'...more
More about Nadine Gordimer...
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“I don't want to know more about her; don't want to know her weaknesses or calculate them. What I have is not for her; he gives me to understand she would not know what to do with it; it's not her fault. --One is married and there is nothing to be done.-- Yet he has said to me, I would marry you if I could, meaning: I want very much to marry you. I offended him a bit by not being moved. It's other things he's said that are the text I'm living by. I really do not know if I want any form of public statement, status, code; such as marriage. There's nothing more private and personal than the life of a mistress, is there? Outwardly, no one even knows we are responsible to each other....

'This is the creature that has never been'--he told me a line of poetry about that unicorn, translated from German. A mythical creature. Un paradis inventé. ”
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