Nadine Gordimer appreciation: She wrote the social history of our nation
Tuesday 15 July 2014
Nadine Gordimer will be remembered in South Africa and abroad as a towering literary figure and powerful voice for justice and freedom of expression.
Although by her own admission she was not a “political person” by nature, she had a profound impact on political life.
Through her writing and choices of subject she strengthened the forces of resistance to apartheid and continued to speak out against any form of official censorship.
She inspired Nelson Mandela and was one of the first people whom he asked to see after his release from 27 years in jail in February 1990.
Gordimer, who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1991, wrote 15 novels, three of which were banned under the apartheid government’s censorship laws.
One of her books, briefly banned, was Burger’s Daughter, which tells the story of a woman’s search for her identity after her father, a political revolutionary, dies in jail.
The book was inspired by the life and example of the legendary Bram Fischer, an Afrikaner who turned his back on his own people to devote his life to the liberation of black South Africans. He was the brilliant lawyer who led the legal team that saved Nelson Mandela and his colleagues in the seminal Rivonia trial of 1964.
Gordimer’s novels, non-fiction, essays and short stories were translated into 40 languages and for most white South Africans during the apartheid years her novels were uncomfortable reading; her South African audience was dwarfed by her vast international following.
Gordimer, who secretly joined the ANC following the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, was active in the underground, driving activists under threat to the border and assisting victims of apartheid in other ways.
The themes of her books focused on the various stages of apartheid but her writing was itself not overly political. Her priority was always to enter the world of others with great empathy and insight and take readers on a subjective journey.
The patchwork quilt that her books formed over the years is like a social and political history of the country under apartheid and beyond.
John Battersby was the editor of ‘The Sunday Independent’ in South Africa from 1996 to 2001
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Scottish independence results live: Reunited kingdom - Scotland gives a clear 'No' in historic referendum
- 2 Scottish referendum results: David Cameron set to unveil major devolution of powers to England
- 3 iOS 8 is full of shiny new features - but it's terrible news for app developers
- 4 Scottish independence: Tory revolt against 'devo max' grows as Rail Minister Claire Perry joins
- 5 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams cast in Channel 4 drama about cyber bullying
Downton Abbey: Liam Neeson wants role as stableman in period drama
Star Wars 7 leaked photo of Adam Driver changes everything
The Walking Dead season 5 synopsis: Spoilers and existential questions revealed
Friends 20th anniversary: Six things we wouldn't have without influential comedy series
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'