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The House Gun

About the Book

The House Gun

The House Gun is Nadine Gordimer's twelfth novel, her second set in post-apartheid South Africa. For Harald and Claudia Lingard, the passively liberal, white couple at the center of the story, not much has changed in the political transition from apartheid to majority rule, from F.W. de Klerk to Nelson Mandela. Harald and Claudia live in comfort and safety until one evening when they discover "something terrible has happened." Their only son, Duncan, has been arrested for killing one of his housemates. There is never a question of his guilt -- he has confessed to the crime -- but Harald and Claudia cannot understand how Duncan could abandon his belief in the sanctity of human life, nor can they believe that the violence that had always affected "other people" has found a way into their world. The House Gun records with remarkable precision the psychological transformations that Harald and Claudia undergo as they search for the truth.

In this novel, as in most of Gordimer's books, the personal becomes political. While Duncan's crime was surely one of passion, the repercussions force Harald and Claudia to snap out of their oblivion and face the legacy of South Africa's bloody history: since the end of apartheid the murder rate in South Africa has skyrocketed, and, as a result, guns are "kept for protection" in almost every household. Harald and Claudia also must face their own prejudices as they put their faith in Hamilton Motsamai, the black lawyer Duncan has hired to defend him.

With stunning grace and clarity, Nadine Gordimer seamlessly intertwines the self with society as she tests the boundaries of love and intimacy. Readers will find, like Harald and Claudia, that even within the most complicated frameworks, these boundaries are resilient. The House Gun is a portrait of powerful awakenings -- of a father and mother, a husband and wife, a parent and child, a nation and its citizens. But it is also an affirmation of the will to reconciliation that starts where it must, with individual men and women.

The House Gun
by Nadine Gordimer

  • Publication Date: February 1, 1999
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
  • ISBN-10: 0140278206
  • ISBN-13: 9780140278200