Here at Exclusive Books, we were saddened to hear of the passing of a literary giant, one more precious for being one of our own, and recognised by the highest accolade the world has to offer for writers. Tributes have poured in from around the world, and her life has been celebrated by authors, readers and media around the world.
Ms. 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,” Ms. Gordimer 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 neighborhoods and tiny shebeens of the black townships to the poolside barbecues, hunting parties and sundowner cocktails of the white society.
The Guardian has this to say about her life:
The daughter of a Jewish watchmaker from Latvia and middle-class woman from Britain, Gordimer started writing in earnest at the age of nine and produced 15 novels as well as several volumes of short stories, non-fiction and other works. She was published in 40 languages around the world. Her literary gaze was unsparing on both white minority rule and the governing African National Congress (ANC).
“She cared most deeply about South Africa, its culture, its people, and its ongoing struggle to realise its new democracy,” the family said. Her “proudest days”, they said, included winning the Nobel prize and testifying in the 1980s on behalf of a group of anti-apartheid activists who had been accused of treason.
And locally, The Mail and Guardian wrote:
Gordimer was an unwavering critic of apartheid and an outspoken advocate of black majority rule. 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.
“I used the life around me and the life around me was racist,” she said in a 1990 interview. “I would have been a writer anywhere, but in my country, writing meant confronting racism.
We wish the Gordimer family comfort and strength in this difficult time, and with them celebrate Nadine Gordimer’s legacy.