Monday, July 14, 2014

Nadine Gordimer, writer and outspoken critic of Apartheid, 1923-2014

Nadine  Gordimer
 Nadine Gordimer, South Africa's ''first lady of letters'' and a laureate of the Nobel prize for Literature has died at the age of 90.
Gordimer wrote 15 novels as well as several volumes of short stories, non-fiction and other works. The South African Mail and Guardian mentions that she was published in 40 languages around the world.
  “She cared most deeply about South Africa, its culture, its people, and its on-going struggle to realise its new democracy, '' Her family bsais in a statement.''Her proudest days were not only when she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991, but also when she testified at the Delmas Trial in 1986, to contribute to saving the lives of 22 ANC members.''
Gordimer was an unwavering critic of apartheid and an outspoken advocate of black majority rule, the Guardian and Mail writes. Her fiction, which she saw as part of the struggle against apartheid, documented the havoc that institutionalised racism wrought on private lives. Three of her works were banned by the government for varying periods because of their outspoken messages.
Gordimer was born in the mining town of Springs on November 20, 1923, the daughter of a Jewish immigrant father from Russia, Nan, and a mother, Isidore, from England. Despite her father’s religious leanings, Gordimer was brought up a Christian and attended a Catholic convent school. Her father was a jeweller and the family was financially well-off.
After fainting a few times around the age of 11, Nadine’s mother withdrew her from school over fears of a weak heart. It was at this time that Nadine turned to books and writing as she seldom spent any time with her peers. She studied briefly at the University of the Witwatersrand before a short and unsuccessful marriage.

Lying Days, her first novel, appeared in 1953 and was followed by 12 more. She published over 200 short stories and numerous essays on literature and cultural politics - an output matched by only a handful of living writers. As apartheid became entrenched, the idealism faded and The Late Bourgeois World (1969) reflected the slow death of these values. By the 1970s Gordimer had been studying the neo-colonial critiques of radical African theoreticians such as Frantz Fanon and Nkwame Nkrumah. She incorporated their ideas into a major statement about a future South African political and economic dispensation in A Guest of Honour.
Her 1979 Burger’s Daughter, based on the life of Afrikaner lawyer and convicted saboteur Bram Fischer was ranked by one critic as one of the “few truly great political novels ever written”. Her 1992 collection of short stories, titled Jump, contained a clear message of how whites had become victims of the system they enforced. She repeatedly carried off the CNA prize for literature, and The Conservationist (1974), seen by many as her finest work, was awarded the Booker Prize.

In 1988 Gordimer caused a stir when, giving evidence in mitigation of sentence at the Delmas treason trial of United Democratic Front leaders, she told the judge she regarded Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo as her leaders. She announced in 1990 that she had joined the ANC, and called for the continuation of economic sanctions against South Africa until it became a multiracial democracy. She was one of the first people Nelson Mandela chose to meet when he was released from Robben Island prison in 1990.
In 1991, at the age of 67, she won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first woman to do so in 25 years.
Gordimer said she would use part of her R2.8 million prize money to support and encourage South African black authors through the Congress of South African Writers, which she helped found and of which she was a patron. In the same acceptance speech Gordimer paid tribute to the exiled Salman Rushdie saying “Salman Rushdie happens to be a brilliant writer, and the novel for which he is being pilloried, The Satanic Verses, is an innovative exploration of one of the most intense experiences of being in our era”.
Gordimer has 10 honorary doctorates in literature. Unlike her writing peers, JM Coetzee and Andre Brink, Gordimer refused to emigrate from South Africa.

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