It was in high school that I discovered the work of Nadine Gordimer. It was one of her short stories which Gordimer views as “the literary form for our age”. I loved it, joining the millions of other readers who find Gordimer’s writing compelling and hard-hitting. Back in the days of apartheid, Gordimer’s writings were often banned in South Africa.
Born on 20 November 1923, in Springs, Gauteng, to Jewish immigrant parents she published her first stories in 1937 at the age of fifteen. She went to Wits but never finished her degree. She has more than fifteen honorary doctorates, though.
Her home in Houghton, where she lived with her second husband, Reinhold Cassirer, an art dealer, was a meeting place for many anti-apartheid writers. Her political activism dates back to the Sharpeville massacre and she was friends with Bram Fischer and George Bizos. She was a member of the ANC while it was banned. Mandela asked to meet her soon after his release from prison.
Her works drew international acclaim and Gordimer is a much awarded writer, not least of which is the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991. She resisted censorship under apartheid and spoke out against restrictions on freedom of speech in the old South Africa and condemns it still under the ANC.
In the post-apartheid 1990s and 21st century, Gordimer has been active in the fight against HIV/AIDS and the stigmatisation thereof.
Interestingly in light of the fact that I have selected Gordimer as one of the women I am looking at for Women’s Month, she resists discrimination to the extent that she refused to be shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 1998 because the award recognises only women writers.
Gordimer self-identifies as an atheist but resists attempts to equate Zionism with apartheid.
I salute Ms Gordimer, and I make my own note here to read some of her works which I have not yet read.