Nobel writer Gordimer dies at 90

RISKY WORK: Three of Gordimer's books were banned in South Africa at some point during the apartheid era.


    Jul 16, 2014

    Nobel writer Gordimer dies at 90


    NADINE Gordimer, the South African writer whose literary ambitions led her into the heart of apartheid to create a body of fiction that brought her a Nobel Prize in 1991, died on Sunday in Johannesburg. She was 90.

    Her family announced her death in a statement.

    Gordimer did not originally choose apartheid as her subject as a young writer, she said, but she found it impossible to dig deeply into South African life without striking repression.

    And once the Afrikaner nationalists came to power in 1948, the scaffolds of the apartheid system began to rise around her and could not be ignored.

    "I am not a political person by nature," she said years later. "I don't suppose if I had lived elsewhere, my writing would have reflected politics much, if at all."

    But whether by accident of geography or literary searching, she found her themes in the injustices and cruelties of her country's policies of racial division, and she left no quarter of South African society unexplored, from the hot, crowded cinder-block neighbourhoods and tiny shebeens of the black townships to the poolside barbecues, hunting parties and sundowner cocktails of the white society.

    Through her work, international readers learnt the human effects of the "colour bar" and the punishing laws that systematically sealed off each avenue of contact among races.

    Gordimer was the author of more than two dozen works of fiction, including novels and collections of short stories, in addition to personal and political essays and literary criticism.

    Three of her books were banned in her own country at some point during the apartheid era - 1948 to 1994 - starting with her second novel, A World Of Strangers, published in 1958.

    It concerns a young British man, newly arrived in South Africa, who discovers two distinct social planes that he cannot bridge: one in the black townships, to which one group of friends is relegated; the other in the white world of privilege, enjoyed by a handful of others he knows.

    A World Of Strangers was banned for 12 years and another novel, The Late Bourgeois World (1966), for 10.

    The third banned novel was one of her best-known, Burger's Daughter, the story of the child of a family of revolutionaries who seeks her own way after her father becomes a martyr to the cause.

    Gordimer was never detained or persecuted for her work, though there were always risks to writing openly about the ruling repressive regime.

    She was born to Jewish immigrant parents in 1923, in Springs, a mining town in the north-east province now known as Gauteng.

    In 1949, she married a dentist, Gerald Gavron, and they had a daughter, Oriane. The marriage ended in divorce in 1952.

    Two years later, she married Reinhold Cassirer, an art dealer who had fled Nazi Germany.

    Their son, Hugo, was born in 1955. Mr Cassirer died in 2001.

    Her son and daughter survive her.