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Nadine Gordimer Author Biography Essay

Gordimer, Nadine 1923–

Ms Gordimer is a South African novelist and short story writer. Her fiction inevitably touches on the political changes in her homeland. (See also, Nadine Gordimer Criticism and volumes 5, 10, 17, 18, 80 and 123.)

Nadine Gordimer has, among her many delicate strengths, three that [in discussing The Conservationist] prove especially apt: her sense of the language of others and of other languages; her sense of her own creative language; and her sense of her own and of others' sexuality. For the first, I'd cite the subtle and various comprehensions which she has of the relationships between English, Afrikaans, and the native languages of the Africans and the Indians—relationships that are sometimes political, sometimes merely politic, and sometimes constitute the irremovable relationships, family ones: "He and the people there greeted each other with 'brother,' 'sister,' 'mother,' 'uncle,' a grammar of intimacy that went with their language." The book is never unaware that it is written in one, only one, of the tongues which belong to its various people; yet it is never disablingly self-conscious about this, or afraid of paternalism or maternalism, since in mothering (and husbanding and lovering) its mother tongue it conveys a warm respect for the other mother tongues. (p. 14)

Christopher Ricks, in The New York Review of Books (reprinted with permission from The New York Review of Books; copyright © 1975 NYREV, Inc.), June 26, 1975.

Nadine Gordimer's main character [in The Conservationist], Mehring, is no more in control of his environment than Slocum [of Joseph Heller's Something Happened], although he may appear in his own eyes to be so. However, he is very much in the control of his author whose response, as a novelist, to the tensions, to the perhaps impending chaos of South African society, results in an extremely structured novel. One can sympathise with both writers' response to the ever-increasing problems of technological societies which seem to be increasingly stratified and ever nearer disintegration, but Miss Gordimer's creation of a structure which takes into account the tensions of a society and its possible disintegration seems to me to produce a better work of art than does Mr. Heller's method…. Of course, one might then consider whether Miss Gordimer's novel, with its aesthetically satisfying patterns, alleviates the tensions which might have provoked a person to act, whether individually or collectively, to alter the conditions which are, both morally and practically, reprehensible. (p. 68)

If Mehring treats women like objects, he calculates his behaviour with everyone, classifying and labelling. His mistress is one of a "set," one of a "kind," her "kind" being the intellectuals who held radical or at least liberal ideas, particularly about the exploitation of the black South African. The murdered man found on Mehring's farm at the beginning of the novel is "One of them." In this case, "them" are the blacks. His neighbours, the full-time farmers, he thinks of as "the locals," "these Boers." "Palm-greasers" is his epithet for the Indian shop keepers with their "coolie money." Mehring uses the labels and assists in their conservation but everyone in his society knows of their existence and, in the novel, though there is grumbling, there is no active resistance to the act of classification or to having been classified. The Conservationist is a carefully contrived novel, and the word "contrived" is not meant here to be pejorative, although one might resent. Mehring's (violent) death having been plotted from the beginning rather than appearing to grow organically from the structure of the work. Patterns of imagery, laden with significance and dread, recur continually. Thus we frequently come upon dirt or earth, the mouth, pits or holes. At my school we would have been taught to call [such] writing … "symbolic" or, at the least, an example of "foreshadowing"…. (p. 69)

Indeed, one might say that [Nadine Gordimer's] reaction to chaos lies in the act of strict patterning—so strict that her characters do not appear able to choose. To adopt such a form is to resist disorder and The Conservationist is a complete, carefully thought out and well executed book. I did feel, however, deprived of a sense of process. (p. 70)

Elaine Glover, in Stand (copyright © by Stand), Vol. 16, No. 3, 1975.

Nadine Gordimer … makes [the protagonist of The Conservationist] a human and nuanced advocate of the very thing her ten previous books opposed: the white-supremacist policy of apartheid.

Mehring purchases his farm as a tax write-off, but it gradually grows on him—and on the reader. Soon the African earth and its plowman conspire to give the novel its center and its soul. The lyricism cannot last. Mehring cracks up principally because the author must punish the undertow of racism that tugs at all his small virtues. To bring about the denouement, Gordimer resorts to a trick best relegated to gothic potboilers: the corpse that will not stay put. The body of a black man, apparently murdered, appears on Mehring's land. He has it buried. A flood brings it up again. The constant resurrection shatters the farmer. As the book ends, Mehring comes to understand that he can never possess the property that the blacks truly own and he can only occupy.

If this resolution rings false, its tone is almost drowned out by the intricate music of Gordimer's prose. Neither separatists nor liberal South African whites are likely to thank her for The Conservationist and its wholly believable "hero." Yet the cursed enchanted land she describes will probably never receive attention more skilled or loving. (p. 61)

Time (reprinted by permission from Time, The Weekly Newsmagazine; copyright Time Inc.), July 7, 1975.

Nadine Gordimer chose two epigraphs for her third novel, Occasion for Loving. The first was by Boris Pasternak and gave the work its title: "We have all become people according to the measure in which we have loved people and have had occasion for loving." The second was by Thomas Mann: "In our time the destiny of man presents its meaning in political terms." The quotations were well suited to the novel that followed, a work set in Gordimer's South African homeland and concerned with matters of choice—from the most routine domestic problems to the more complex demands of public morality and conscience. But the Pasternak and Mann quotes could well preface any of Gordimer's novels.

Her fourth, novella-length work, The Late Bourgeois World, was about misplaced love, the failure of a marriage and the sour taste left of spoiled youthful idealism…. The novel works by Gordimer's basic technique: a private life, the pull of memory and politics overlap….

For her next novel, A Guest of Honor (a truly major work that would have been acclaimed as such if more widely reviewed), Gordimer focused upon not a failed idealist but an honest man who is misled…. Here Gordimer reexamined the potent theme of the land. The epigraph from Turgenev ("An honourable man will end up by not knowing where to live") underscores this point, as does the novel's title that, like Frank O'Connor's "Guests of the Nation," is used ironically. James Bray [the protagonist] must make a choice; he must decide not only where his priorities lie but what those priorities might be.

The title of … The Conservationist is also used ironically. Mehring is different from other Gordimer "protagonists" in that all his choices have been made long before we meet him. And he is by no means an idealist; if a tag is needed, he is a sensualist, out to conserve a life style based on easy conquest in business and sex….

Gordimer neatly ties the image of the land to her sensual and political themes, for Mehring is defined by how he has "loved" people—and things. They are indistinguishable in his mind. (p. 29)

The South Africa of The Conservationist is an hallucinatory landscape. Gordimer's technique distorts the truth only slightly—like the photo on the dust jacket. This brief bit of African terrain seems to have been shot through a fish eye lense; thus the flat-topped tree at the center appears distorted, but only slightly. It is now both ominous and elegant; in fact, from a distance it looks like a small mushroom cloud. Gordimer, by paring down the landscape to the bare essentials (as if creating a stage set for a modern morality play), has made the land the most compelling character in the novel, the true hero. It lives on, denying Mehring, the sexual colonist, his last six feet of the country. (p. 30)

Robert Leiter, in The New Republic (reprinted by permission of The New Republic; © 1975 by The New Republic, Inc.), September 13, 1975.

For over 30 years [Nadine Gordimer's] novels and short stories have flowed steadily from the darkest tip of the dark continent, apparently fearless, her attitude a unique blend of irony, compassion and disgust. The stories in ["Selected Stories"] were written between the ages of 20 and 50, and have been selected by Gordimer herself to show her development as a writer; but that is not all they show. A society, too, can age and sharpen and grow less amenable over 30 years….

The 31 stories in the collection are taken from five books, and my own favorites are those that show Gordimer at her most receptive, wry and sunny, with a trained eye for the natural beauty of land, and water and an impartial ear for complaint, wherever it comes from—stories from the active, mature years, perhaps, in the middle of that 30-year marathon. During this time even her impatience with "dogooders," white liberal benefactors, is tempered with affection….

"Which New Era Would That Be?"… seems to me the most successful of them all…. In relatively few pages this story crystalizes a vast, seemingly unmanageable conflict, reducing it in size, if not in stature, to the insoluble problem of human inability to communicate. Because it seems insoluble, it still seems hopeless; but Gordimer's sympathies here are so alive, her reactions so sharp, her aim so accurate on every target, that one feels exhilarated by new and significant knowledge….

Not a didactic writer, like Solzhenitsyn or Doris Lessing, Gordimer stays at home and writes about what she sees and hears and feels. The middle-class suburbs, the seaside resorts and vacations in the country, the teen-age mores, the conflicts of sex and background would be much the same as in any other WASP community if it weren't for the one thing that makes Gordimer stand out above her contemporaries—South Africa, her context and her content. Without this, she would probably belong in the ranks of those sensitive, perceptive writers of limited experience and no more than adequate talent. There is no point in trying to disassociate her work from the sorrow and the pity, the pain and the bitterness, that is her bonus for the life she has chosen to live and write about; there is no disguising the fact that one's admiration is greater for the act of writing than it is for the writing itself. Nevertheless, the plain, informative style—only very rarely touching the sublime, but only occasionally lapsing into the ridiculous—serves her material well. A more poetic or stylistically perfect prose might, against the enormity of her subject, seem almost indecent. (p. 7)

Penelope Mortimer, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1976 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 18, 1976.

["Selected Stories" is] marked by the courage of moral vision and the beauty of artistic complexity. Gordimer examines, with passionate precision, the intricacies both of individual lives and of the wide-ranging political and historical forces that contain them. She can move from a melancholy portrait of a stolid hotel owner's guilty discovery of sexual pleasures in the wake of her husband's gruesome death, to an incisive study of the layers of unwitting hypocrisy and self-deception that taint the best attempts by whites and blacks to thwart apartheid. And while her eye and ear for the conversations and conventions of social intercourse are first rate, she is deeply aware of—and can evoke in startling, sinewy language—the silent, natural world of animals and landscape, whose unmeasured time and space can reduce human beings to insignificance.

The stories are arranged in a chronological order that reveals both her personal and artistic development. The effect is like watching, over 30 years, the completion of a painting: first the sharp, compelling outlines, then the addition of depth, texture and chiaroscuro and, finally, the emergence of the whole. (p. 91)

Margo Jefferson, in Newsweek (copyright 1976 by Newsweek, Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), April 19, 1976.

[Nadine Gordimer has never] been experimental in the current sense of that term. [Her] surroundings are exotic enough without that. At this stage a radically experimental book … would seem as surprising as coming upon a high rise along a river bank in the old Africa or India. But the landscapes have changed, the independence movements have gone forward, and the novel and short story have remained flexible enough to record these changes even when [she has] chosen not to explore fiction's conventions any further.

The solitariness of [her] situation, caught between cultures, old and new, native and imported, could easily be a stressful situation, but [she has] mustered the wit not to be done in. In her introduction [to Selected Stories] Gordimer talks with no special intensity about her childhood isolation as part of a minority group in a mining town and later as a woman-intellectual and writer. For her cultural isolation is possibly no more than another version of an inevitable predicament….

The tradition of a writer's solitariness has served Gordimer well in dealing with the other given of her scene, the continuing problems of colonial rule and racial injustice in South Africa. Only in a few stories does she seem too explicit in her themes. She has not herself become what she once called in a lecture a "testifier," someone with writing ambitions whose awareness of injustice is his only talent. Analyzing her work she seems especially sharp on the virtues and ambiguity of detachment: "Powers of observation heightened beyond the normal imply extraordinary disinvolvement; or rather the double process, excessive preoccupation and identification with the lives of others, and at the same time a monstrous detachment." Now we can see what those formulas for creating lifelike characters amount to: as good a projection into the feelings of others as we are likely to get, proven here under very difficult conditions. It is with the ironies of fiction that Gordimer deals with racial attitudes…. Colonialism would appear to have brought to African fiction the sense of irony necessary to reveal itself….

Gordimer has been much praised for the excellence of her visual detail and rightly so. She considers herself an African writer and complains about the difficulty of modeling one's fiction after English literature where Christmas is not even in the same season. So she brings us the new imagery of an African sunset when the "lid of the horizon closed on the bloody eye of the sun," but in another way we have all been instructed by that other fiction so that one woman is seen as wearing a "downy sweater like a newly-hatched chick" and a fat woman is described with Dickensian extravagance as looking "like a pudding that had risen too high and run down the sides of the dish." (p. 149)

Fiction as a vehicle for social comedy is sometimes used to show off cocktail parties and other gatherings where blacks and liberal whites meet but do not understand. In other stories, it is the private sorrows that are most insisted upon…. The pieces that might well seem most impressive to outsiders from another climate are those where the single lives are set against the jungle landscape. The best example and certainly an exceptional story is "Livingstone's Companions." A reporter is assigned to retrace the steps of the famous expedition. He gets lost and finds himself at a lakeside resort. He has a copy of Livingstone's diary with him, and it is this most typical of English assumptions, the bringing of literature into the tropics and the belief in the written interpretation of experience, that gives the story its resonance. (pp. 149-50)

Eugene Chesnick, in The Nation (copyright 1976 by the Nation Associates, Inc.), August 28, 1976.

Nadine Gordimer (20 November 1923 – 13 July 2014) was a South African writer, political activist and recipient of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature. She was recognized as a woman "who through her magnificent epic writing has – in the words of Alfred Nobel – been of very great benefit to humanity".[1]

Gordimer's writing dealt with moral and racial issues, particularly apartheid in South Africa. Under that regime, works such as Burger's Daughter and July's People were banned. She was active in the anti-apartheid movement, joining the African National Congress during the days when the organization was banned, and gave Nelson Mandela advice on his famous 1964 defence speech at the trial which led to his conviction for life. She was also active in HIV/AIDS causes.

Personal life[edit]

Gordimer was born near Springs, Gauteng, an East Randmining town outside Johannesburg. Her father, Isidore Gordimer, was a Jewish immigrant watchmaker from Žagarė (then Russian Empire, now Lithuania),[2][3] and her mother, Hannah "Nan" (Myers) Gordimer, was from London.[4][5] Her mother was from an assimilated family of Jewish origins; Gordimer was raised in a secular household.[2]

Gordimer's early interest in racial and economic inequality in South Africa was shaped in part by her parents. Her father's experience as a refugee in tsarist Russia helped form Gordimer's political identity, but he was neither an activist nor particularly sympathetic toward the experiences of black people under apartheid.[6] Conversely, Gordimer saw activism by her mother, whose concern about the poverty and discrimination faced by black people in South Africa ostensibly led her to found a crèche for black children.[5] Gordimer also witnessed government repression first-hand as a teenager; the police raided her family home, confiscating letters and diaries from a servant's room.[5]

Gordimer was educated at a Catholicconvent school, but was largely home-bound as a child because her mother, for "strange reasons of her own," did not put her into school (apparently, she feared that Gordimer had a weak heart).[6] Home-bound and often isolated, she began writing at an early age, and published her first stories in 1937 at the age of 15.[7] Her first published work was a short story for children, "The Quest for Seen Gold," which appeared in the Children's Sunday Express in 1937; "Come Again Tomorrow," another children's story, appeared in Forum around the same time. At the age of 16, she had her first adult fiction published.[8]

Gordimer studied for a year at the University of the Witwatersrand, where she mixed for the first time with fellow professionals across the colour bar. She also became involved in the Sophiatown renaissance.[8] She did not complete her degree, but moved to Johannesburg in 1948, where she lived thereafter. While taking classes in Johannesburg, she continued to write, publishing mostly in local South African magazines. She collected many of these early stories in Face to Face, published in 1949.

In 1951, the New Yorker accepted Gordimer's story "A Watcher of the Dead",[9] beginning a long relationship, and bringing Gordimer's work to a much larger public. Gordimer, who said she believed the short story was the literary form for our age,[7] continued to publish short stories in the New Yorker and other prominent literary journals. Her first publisher, Lulu Friedman, was the wife of the Parliamentarian Bernard Friedman, and it was at their house, "Tall Trees" in First Avenue, Lower Houghton, Johannesburg, that Gordimer met other anti-apartheid writers.[10]

Gordimer's first novel, The Lying Days, was published in 1953. Gordimer had a daughter, Oriane (born 1950), by her first marriage in 1949 to Gerald Gavron, a local dentist, from whom she was divorced within three years.[11] In 1954, she married Reinhold Cassirer, a highly respected art dealer who established the South African Sotheby's and later ran his own gallery; their "wonderful marriage"[6] lasted until his death from emphysema in 2001. Their son, Hugo, was born in 1955, and is a filmmaker in New York, with whom Gordimer collaborated on at least two documentaries. Hugo Cassirer later married Sarah Buttrick, and had three children.

Activism and professional life[edit]

The arrest of her best friend, Bettie du Toit, in 1960 and the Sharpeville massacre spurred Gordimer's entry into the anti-apartheid movement.[5] Thereafter, she quickly became active in South African politics, and was close friends with Nelson Mandela's defence attorneys (Bram Fischer and George Bizos) during his 1962 trial.[5] She also helped Mandela edit his famous speech "I Am Prepared to Die", given from the defendant's dock at the trial.[12] When Mandela was released from prison in 1990, she was one of the first people he wanted to see.[5]

During the 1960s and 1970s, she continued to live in Johannesburg, although she occasionally left for short periods of time to teach at several universities in the United States. She had begun to achieve international literary recognition, receiving her first major award in 1961. Throughout this time, Gordimer continued to demand through both her writing and her activism that South Africa re-examine and replace its long held policy of apartheid.

During this time, the South African government banned several of her works, two for lengthy periods of time. The Late Bourgeois World was Gordimer's first personal experience with censorship; it was banned in 1976 for a decade by the South African government.[11][13]A World of Strangers was banned for twelve years.[11] Other works were censored for lesser amounts of time. Burger's Daughter, published in June 1979, was banned one month later; the Publications Committee's Appeal Board reversed the censorship of Burger's Daughter six months later, determining that the book was too one-sided to be subversive.[14] Gordimer responded to this decision in Essential Gesture (1988), pointing out that the board banned two books by black authors at the same time it unbanned her own work.[15]July's People was also banned under apartheid, and faced censorship under the post-apartheid government as well.[16] In 2001, a provincial education department temporarily removed July's People from the school reading list, along with works by other anti-apartheid writers,[17] describing July's People as "deeply racist, superior and patronizing"[18]—a characterization that Gordimer took as a grave insult, and that many literary and political figures protested.[17]

In South Africa, she joined the African National Congress when it was still listed as an illegal organization by the South African government.[5][19] While never blindly loyal to any organization, Gordimer saw the ANC as the best hope for reversing South Africa's treatment of black citizens. Rather than simply criticizing the organization for its perceived flaws, she advocated joining it to address them.[5] She hid ANC leaders in her own home to aid their escape from arrest by the government, and she said that the proudest day of her life was when she testified at the 1986 Delmas Treason Trial on behalf of 22 South African anti-apartheid activists.[5][19] (See Simon Nkoli, Mosiuoa Lekota, etc.) Throughout these years she also regularly took part in anti-apartheid demonstrations in South Africa, and traveled internationally speaking out against South African apartheid and discrimination and political repression.[5]

Her works began achieving literary recognition early in her career, with her first international recognition in 1961, followed by numerous literary awards throughout the ensuing decades. Literary recognition for her accomplishments culminated with the Nobel Prize for Literature on 3 October 1991,[20] which noted that Gordimer "through her magnificent epic writing has—in the words of Alfred Nobel—been of very great benefit to humanity".[1]

Gordimer's activism was not limited to the struggle against apartheid. She resisted censorship and state control of information, and fostered the literary arts. She refused to let her work be aired by the South African Broadcasting Corporation because it was controlled by the apartheid government.[21] Gordimer also served on the steering committee of South Africa's Anti-Censorship Action Group. A founding member of the Congress of South African Writers, Gordimer was also active in South African letters and international literary organizations. She was Vice President of International PEN.

In the post-apartheid 1990s and 21st century, Gordimer was active in the HIV/AIDS movement, addressing a significant public health crisis in South Africa. In 2004, she organized about 20 major writers to contribute short fiction for Telling Tales, a fundraising book for South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign, which lobbies for government funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and care.[22] On this matter, she was critical of the South African government, noting in 2004 that she approved of everything President Thabo Mbeki had done except his stance on AIDS.[22][23][24]

While on lecture tours, she spoke on matters of foreign policy and discrimination beyond South Africa. For instance, in 2005, when Fidel Castro fell ill, Gordimer joined six other Nobel prizewinners in a public letter to the United States warning it not to seek to destabilize Cuba's communist government. Gordimer's resistance to discrimination extended to her even refusing to accept "shortlisting" in 1998 for the Orange Prize, because the award recognizes only women writers.[citation needed]

In 2006, Gordimer was attacked in her home by robbers, sparking outrage in the country. Gordimer apparently refused to move into a gated complex, against the advice of some friends.[25]

In a 1979–80 interview Gordimer identified herself as an atheist, but added: "I think I have a basically religious temperament, perhaps even a profoundly religious one."[26]

Ronald Suresh Roberts published a biography of Gordimer, No Cold Kitchen, in 2006. She had granted Roberts interviews and access to her personal papers, with an understanding that she would authorise the biography in return for a right to review the manuscript before publication. However, Gordimer and Roberts failed to reach an agreement over his account of the illness and death of Gordimer's husband Reinhold Cassirer and an affair Gordimer had in the 1950s, as well as criticism of her views on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Roberts published independently, not as "authorized", and Gordimer disowned the book, accusing Roberts of breach of trust.[27]

In addition to those disagreements, Roberts criticises Gordimer's post-apartheid advocacy on behalf of black South Africans, in particular her opposition to the government's handling of the AIDS crisis, as a paternalistic and hypocritical white liberalism. The biography also stated that Gordimer's 1954 New Yorker essay, "A South African Childhood", was not wholly biographical and contained some fabricated events.[27]

Gordimer died in her sleep on 13 July 2014 at the age of 90.[28][29][30]

Works, themes, and reception[edit]

Gordimer achieved lasting international recognition for her works, most of which deal with political issues, as well as the "moral and psychological tensions of her racially divided home country."[31] Virtually all of Gordimer's works deal with themes of love and politics, particularly concerning race in South Africa. Always questioning power relations and truth, Gordimer tells stories of ordinary people, revealing moral ambiguities and choices. Her characterization is nuanced, revealed more through the choices her characters make than through their claimed identities and beliefs. She also weaves in subtle details within the characters' names.

Overview of critical works[edit]

Her first published novel, The Lying Days (1953), takes place in Gordimer's home town of Springs, Transvaal, an East Rand mining town near Johannesburg. Arguably a semi-autobiographical work, The Lying Days is a Bildungsroman, charting the growing political awareness of a young white woman, Helen, toward small-town life and South African racial division.[32]

In her 1963 work, Occasion for Loving, Gordimer puts apartheid and love squarely together. Her protagonist, Ann Davis, is married to Boaz Davis, an ethnomusicologist, but in love with Gideon Shibalo, an artist with several failed relationships. Ann Davis is white, however, and Gideon Shibalo is black, and South Africa's government criminalised such relationships.

Gordimer collected the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for A Guest of Honour in 1971 and, in common with a number of winners of this award, she was to go on to win the Booker Prize. The Booker was awarded to Gordimer for her 1974 novel, The Conservationist, and was a co-winner with Stanley Middleton's novel Holiday. The Conservationist explores Zulu culture and the world of a wealthy white industrialist through the eyes of Mehring, the antihero. Per Wästberg described The Conservationist as Gordimer's "densest and most poetical novel".[5] Thematically covering the same ground as Olive Schreiner's The Story of an African Farm (1883) and J. M. Coetzee's In the Heart of the Country (1977), the "conservationist" seeks to conserve nature to preserve the apartheid system, keeping change at bay. When an unidentified corpse is found on his farm, Mehring does the "right thing" by providing it a proper burial; but the dead person haunts the work, a reminder of the bodies on which Mehring's vision would be built.

Gordimer's 1979 novel Burger's Daughter is the story of a woman analysing her relationship with her father, a martyr to the anti-apartheid movement. The child of two Communist and anti-apartheid revolutionaries, Rosa Burger finds herself drawn into political activism as well. Written in the aftermath of the 1976 Soweto uprising, the novel was shortly thereafter banned by the South African government. Gordimer described the novel as a "coded homage" to Bram Fischer, the lawyer who defended Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists.[5][33]

In July's People (1981), she imagines a bloody South African revolution, in which white people are hunted and murdered after blacks revolt against the apartheid government. The work follows Maureen and Bamford Smales, an educated white couple, hiding for their lives with July, their long-time former servant. The novel plays off the various groups of "July's people": his family and his village, as well as the Smales. The story examines how people cope with the terrible choices forced on them by violence, race hatred, and the state.[citation needed]

The House Gun (1998) was Gordimer's second post-apartheid novel. It follows the story of a couple, Claudia and Harald Lingard, dealing with their son Duncan's murder of one of his housemates. The novel treats the rising crime rate in South Africa and the guns that virtually all households have, as well as the legacy of South African apartheid and the couple's concerns about their son's lawyer, who is black. The novel was optioned for film rights to Granada Productions.[34][35][36]

Gordimer's award-winning 2002 novel, The Pickup, considers the issues of displacement, alienation, and immigration; class and economic power; religious faith; and the ability for people to see, and love, across these divides. It tells the story of a couple: Julie Summers, a white woman from a financially secure family, and Abdu, an illegal Arab immigrant in South Africa. After Abdu's visa is refused, the couple returns to his homeland, where she is the alien. Her experiences and growth as an alien in another culture form the heart of the work.[37][38][39][40]

Get a Life, written in 2005 after the death of her long-time spouse, Reinhold Cassirer, is the story of a man undergoing treatment for a life-threatening disease. While clearly drawn from personal life experiences, the novel also continues Gordimer's exploration of political themes. The protagonist is an ecologist, battling installation of a planned nuclear plant. But he is at the same time undergoing radiation therapy for his cancer, causing him personal grief and, ironically, rendering him a nuclear health hazard in his own home. Here, Gordimer again pursues the questions of how to integrate everyday life and political activism.[19]New York Times critic J. R. Ramakrishnan, who noted a similarity with author Mia Alvar, wrote that Gordimer wrote about "long-suffering spouses and (the) familial enablers of political men" in her fiction.[41]

Honours and awards[edit]


This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.



Short fiction[edit]


Essays, reporting and other contributions[edit]

Edited works[edit]

  • Telling Tales (2004)
  • Telling Times: Writing and Living, 1950–2008 (2010)


  • "The Gordimer Stories" (1981–82) – adaptations of seven short stories; she wrote screenplays for four of them
  • On the Mines (1973)
  • Lifetimes Under Apartheid (1986)
  • "Choosing for Justice: Allan Boesak" (1983) (documentary with Hugo Cassirer)
  • "Berlin and Johannesburg: The Wall and the Colour Bar" (documentary with Hugo Cassirer)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ab"The Nobel Prize in Literature 1991". Nobelprize. 7 October 2010. Retrieved 7 October 2010. 
  2. ^ abEttin, Andrew Vogel (1993). Betrayals of the Body Politic: The Literary Commitments of Nadine Gordimer. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. pp. 29, 30. ISBN 9780813914305.  
  3. ^Newman, Judie, ed. (2003). Nadine Gordimer's 'Burger's daughter': A Casebook. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 4. ISBN 9780195147179.  
  4. ^Gordimer, Nadine (1990). Bazin, Nancy Topping; Seymour, Marilyn Dallman, eds. Conversations with Nadine Gordimer. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. xix. ISBN 9780878054459.  
  5. ^ abcdefghijklWästberg, Per (26 April 2001). "Nadine Gordimer and the South African Experience". Nobelprize.org. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  6. ^ abc"A Writer's Life: Nadine Gordimer", Telegraph, 3 April 2006.
  7. ^ abNadine Gordimer, Guardian Unlimited (last visited 25 January 2007).
  8. ^ abNadine Gordimer: A Sport of Nature[permanent dead link], The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards.
  9. ^New Yorker, 9 June 1951.
  10. ^"A mixture of ice and fulfilled desire". Mail & Guardian. 14 November 2005. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  11. ^ abcJonathan Steele, "White magic", The Guardian (London), 27 October 2001.
  12. ^Glen Frankel (5 December 2013). "The Speech at Rivonia Trial that Changed History". Washington Post. 
  13. ^Gail Caldwell, "South African Writer Given Nobel", The Boston Globe, 4 October 1991.
  14. ^"Radiation, Race, and Molly Bloom: Nadine Gordimer Talks with BookForum", BookForum, Feb / March 2006.
  15. ^Gordimer wrote an account of the censorship in "What Happened to Burger's Daughter or How South African Censorship Works".
  16. ^BBC News, "South Africa reinstates authors", 22 April 2001.
  17. ^ ab"Gordimer detractors 'insulting', says AsmalArchived 30 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.", News24.com, 19 April 2001.
  18. ^Anuradha Kumar, "New Boundaries", The Hindu, 1 August 2004.
  19. ^ abcDonald Morrison, "Nadine Gordimer", Time Magazine, 60 Years of Heroes (2006).
  20. ^"Nobel Prize in Literature 1991 - Press Release". Nobel Media AB. 2014. Retrieved 10 December 2017. 
  21. ^Christopher S. Wren, "Former Censors Bow Coldly to Apartheid Chronicler", New York Times, 6 October 1991.
  22. ^ abAgence France-Presse, "Nobel laureates join battle against AIDS", 1 December 2004.
  23. ^Gordimer and literary giants fight AIDS, iafrica.com, 29 November 2004.
  24. ^Nadine Gordimer and Anthony Sampson, Letter to The New Review of Books, 16 November 2000.
  25. ^Johnson, RW (29 October 2006). "Nobel writer Nadine Gordimer, 82, attacked and robbed". London: The Times. Retrieved 22 February 2010. 
  26. ^Jannika Hurwitt, Interview with Gordimer, Paris Review, 88, Summer 1983.
  27. ^ abDonadio, Rachel (31 December 2006). "Nadine Gordimer and the Hazards of Biography". New York Times. Retrieved 12 April 2007. 
  28. ^"SA novelist Nadine Gordimer dies". News24.com. 14 July 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  29. ^Smith, David (15 July 2014). "Nadine Gordimer dies aged 90". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  30. ^Becker, Jillian (September 2014). "Nadine Gordimer: 'Comrade Madam'". Standpoint. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  31. ^Liukkonen, Petri. "Nadine Gordimer". Books and Writers (kirjasto.sci.fi). Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 4 December 2008. 
  32. ^"Judith Newman Special Commissioned Essay on The Lying Days by Nadine Gordimer Essay - Critical Essays". eNotes.com. 1923-11-20. Retrieved 2016-11-02. 
  33. ^"Bram Fischer Human Rights Programme". Wits School of Law. 2005. Archived from the original on 4 July 2007. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  34. ^Dwight Garner and Nadine Gordimer, The Salon Interview: Nadine Gordimer, March 1998.
  35. ^ReadingGroup Guide, The House Gun by Nadine Gordimer, Bookreporter.com
  36. ^David Medalie, "'The Context of the Awful Event': Nadine Gordimer's The House Gun", Journal of South African Studies, v.25, n.4 (December 1999), pp. 633–644.
  37. ^J.M. CoetzeeReview of The Pickup and Loot and Other Stories, nytimes.com, 23 October 2003.
  38. ^Sue Kossew, "Review of Nadine Gordimer, The PickupArchived 21 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine.", Quodlibet, v.1, February 2005.
  39. ^Penguin Book Clubs/Reading Guides,

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