Short Story Review – “City Lovers” by Nadine Gordimer

Nadine Gordimer (image source)


A few months ago, I read “Born A Crime” by Trevor Noah. The autobiographical book is about his experiences growing up in the apartheid regime in South Africa. What makes the story even more compelling is that Trevor was considered “a person of colour”, since his mother was African and his father was white. The book discusses not only the racism that was practiced, but also quite a few funny anecdotes of people not knowing how to treat him because he belonged to neither group.

“City Lovers” instantly reminded me of Trevor Noah. This short story, which appeared in The New Yorker magazine in 1975, is by the Booker Prize (1974) and Nobel Prize in Literature (1991) winning author, Nadine Gordimer. It tells the story of a European geologist working in South Africa who grows close to and gets intimate with a coloured woman whom he first happens to meet at the supermarket. Their relationships is considered illegal according to the laws present at the time, and they must hide their affair. The story traces their affair and the legal and social consequences.

I usually do not like stories that go nowhere. This was a wonderful exception. The story is truly thought-provoking, as it makes you wonder about not only the intentions but also the motivations of the various characters for acting the way they do. This is also true of the minor characters in the story, for example the doctor and the policeman. They’re not evil, just doing their job within a grossly racist system. The story doesn’t come across as a moralising tale, rather makes you focus on the personal relationship of the couple.

This is a beautiful little story which made me sit back and think awhile after I finished reading it. It’s a touching tale that I definitely recommend you to read.

You can hear a narration of the story here.

Read more about ‘City Lovers’ on Goodreads.

While I couldn’t find a book which had the story “City Lovers” in it’s collection, I did come across the following book which was edited by Nadine Gordimer and includes a short story by her as well. None of the authors contributing to the book took a fee or take any royalty from the sale of this book; all money goes to the treatment and prevention of HIV/Aids.

Title: Telling Tales

Authors: Various; Editor: Nadine Gordimer

First published: 2004

No. of Pages: 320

Price: (Paperback) Rs. 350 (

(Disclosure: If you buy books by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)