The Ultimate Safari by Nadine Gordimer
In The Ultimate Safari by Nadine Gordimer we have the theme of loss, fear, displacement, struggle and hope. Taken from her Jump and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by a young black girl and from the beginning of the story it becomes clear to the reader that Gordimer is exploring the theme of loss. The narrator has lost both her father and her mother. Her father has gone to fight in the Mozambican Civil War (1977-1992) while her mother’s whereabouts, after going to get some oil, is completely unknown. The narrator is also afraid of the situation she finds herself in. She does not know when the bandits will return to the village and as such she leaves with her grandmother and two brothers for somewhere that is safer. If anything there is a sense that the narrator and her family have been displaced. How desperate the narrator and her family actually are is noticeable when the grandmother sells her shoes for a container to hold water.
There is also a degree of struggle in the story which is really noticeable when the narrator is walking through Kruger Park. She is hungry and tired of carrying her brother. What is also interesting is the fact that nobody who is walking through Kruger Park is allowed to call out to their compatriots who work in the park. Through fear of the men losing their jobs. This is sure to make things more difficult as the men who work in the park would have food but would lose their jobs if they helped the narrator and others. How deep the struggle is for the narrator can also be noticed by the fact she and her grandmother leave their belongings in a bush. No longer having the energy to carry the items. The grandfather’s demise is also interesting as everybody who was travelling through Kruger Park helped to look for him. He was not forgotten about. Though in all inevitability he is dead as too is the narrator’s mother.
When the narrator arrives at the refugee camp there is a sense that things will improve and they do thanks to the abilities of the grandmother. She is able to read and write and ensure that she gets provisions for the rest of the family. If anything the grandmother is selfless. She hasn’t bought herself shoes but has made sure the narrator and her brother have school shoes. Gordimer also allows for the reader to have some insight into life in the refugee camp. She does this through the narrator going through her daily events or other important events in the refugee camp. Though things are better for the narrator the same cannot be said for her brother who we suspect has incurred brain damage. Possibly due to the lack of food available when the narrator was walking through Kruger Park. It may also be worth noting how generous the Sisters are with their time.
The end of the story is interesting as the narrator seems to have found some happiness at the refugee camp. It may not be home but through her grandmother’s generosity she is not left without. What is also noticeable is the narrator’s enthusiasm to return to Mozambique. This is not matched by the grandmother who when asked by the white reporter will she go back home? The grandmother replies ‘there is nothing. No home.’ This line is important as it highlights the fact that the grandmother is acutely aware of what has happened. She has lost her husband and daughter but has still managed to bring the rest of her family to safety. Even so there is too much loss for the grandmother. She knows that her life may never be the same again whereas the reader feels a little bit hopeful for the narrator. She is still young and may not necessarily be as scarred as her grandmother. Though only time will tell and it all depends on how long the civil war will go on for. If anything the narrator’s hopes and aspirations have not failed her whereas the grandmother might be somewhat of a realist.