World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Nadine Gordimer

Article Id: WHEBN0000179599
Reproduction Date:

Title: Nadine Gordimer  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: List of fiction set in South Africa, South African literature, Burger's Daughter, July's People, The Conservationist
Collection: 1923 Births, 2014 Deaths, 20Th-Century Dramatists and Playwrights, 20Th-Century Novelists, 20Th-Century Women Writers, 21St-Century Novelists, 21St-Century Women Writers, African People of British Descent, Anti-Apartheid Activists, Fellows of the Royal Society of Literature, Harvard University People, James Tait Black Memorial Prize Recipients, Jewish Activists, Jewish Atheists, Jewish Women Writers, Légion D'Honneur Recipients, Man Booker Prize Winners, Nobel Laureates in Literature, People from Springs, Gauteng, Recipients of the Order of the Aztec Eagle, Rome Prize Winners, South African Atheists, South African Dramatists and Playwrights, South African Jews, South African Nobel Laureates, South African People of Lithuanian-Jewish Descent, South African Short Story Writers, South African Women Novelists, White Left (South Africa), White South African People, Women Dramatists and Playwrights, Women Nobel Laureates, Women Short Story Writers
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Nadine Gordimer

Nadine Gordimer
Gordimer at the Göteborg Book Fair, 2010
Born (1923-11-20)20 November 1923
Springs, Transvaal,
Union of South Africa
Died 13 July 2014(2014-07-13) (aged 90)
Johannesburg, South Africa
Occupation Writer
Language English
Nationality South African
Period Apartheid-era South Africa
Genre Novels, dramatic plays
Notable works The Conservationist
Burger's Daughter
July's People
Notable awards Booker Prize
Nobel Prize in Literature
Spouse Gerald Gavron (1949–?; divorced; 1 child)
Reinhold Cassirer (1954–2001, his death); 1 child

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 HIV/AIDS causes.


  • Personal life 1
  • Activism and professional life 2
  • Works, themes, and reception 3
    • Overview of critical works 3.1
  • Honours and awards 4
  • List of works 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Personal life

Gordimer was born near Springs, Gauteng, an East Rand mining 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 when yet a teenager; the police raided her family home, confiscating letters and diaries from a servant's room.[5]

Gordimer was educated at a Catholic convent 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

The arrest of her best friend, Bettie du Toit, in 1960 and the 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.[13] 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][14] 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.[15] 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.[16] July's People was also banned under apartheid, and faced censorship under the post-apartheid government as well.[17] In 2001, a provincial education department temporarily removed July's People from the school reading list, along with works by other anti-apartheid writers,[18] describing July's People as "deeply racist, superior and patronizing"[19]—a characterization that Gordimer took as a grave insult, and that many literary and political figures protested.[18]

In South Africa, she joined the

External links

  • Collection Index for Nadine Gordimer Short Stories and Novel Manuscript collection, 1958–1965 (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin, Texas)
  • Guide to the Gordimer manuscripts, 1934–1991 (Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana)
  • Nadine Gordimer Collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin
Research archives
  • Ronald Suresh Roberts, No Cold Kitchen: A Biography of Nadine Gordimer (2005)
  • Jannika Hurwitt (Summer 1983). "Nadine Gordimer, The Art of Fiction No. 77". The Paris Review. 
  • Nadine Gordimer, Nancy Topping Bazin, and Marilyn Dallman Seymour, Conversations with Nadine Gordimer (1990)
  • Nadine Gordimer, Nobel Prize for Literature acceptance speech (1991)
  • Nadine Gordimer: The Ultimate Safari reading from 2007 PEN World Voices Festival
  • A Conversation with Nadine Gordimer at The Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture, 2007 from PEN American Center
Speeches and interviews
  • articles on GordimerNew York TimesIndex of
Short reviews
  • Stephen Clingman, The Novels of Nadine Gordimer: History from the Inside (1986)
  • John Cooke, The Novels of Nadine Gordimer
  • Andrew Vogel Ettin, Betrayals of the Body Politic: The Literary Commitments of Nadine Gordimer (1993)
  • Dominic Head, Nadine Gordimer (1994)
  • Christopher Heywood, Nadine Gordimer (1983)
  • Rowland Smith, editor, Critical Essays on Nadine Gordimer (1990)
  • Barbara Temple-Thurston, Nadine Gordimer Revisited (1999) ISBN 0-8057-4608-0
  • Kathrin Wagner, Rereading Nadine Gordimer (1994)
  • Louise Yelin, From the Margins of Empire: Christina Stead, Doris Lessing, Nadine Gordimer (1998)
  • Nadine Gordimer's Politics Article by Jillian Becker in Commentary, February 1992
Critical studies
  • The Guardian
  • The Independent
  • The New York Times
  • The Washington Post
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • Nadine Gordimer at British Council: Literature
  • Nadine Gordimer Biography (2003)
  • Guardian Books "Author Page", with profile and links to further articles
Brief biographies

Further reading

  1. ^ a b "The Nobel Prize in Literature 1991". Nobelprize. 7 October 2010. Retrieved 7 October 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Ettin, Andrew Vogel (1993). Betrayals of the Body Politic: The Literary Commitments of Nadine Gordimer. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. pp. 29, 30.  
  3. ^ Newman, Judie, ed. (2003). Nadine Gordimer's 'Burger's daughter': A Casebook. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 4.  
  4. ^ Gordimer, Nadine (1990). Bazin, Nancy Topping; Seymour, Marilyn Dallman, eds. Conversations with Nadine Gordimer. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. xix.  
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Wästberg, Per (26 April 2001). "Nadine Gordimer and the South African Experience". Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c "A Writer's Life: Nadine Gordimer", Telegraph, 3 April 2006.
  7. ^ a b Nadine Gordimer, Guardian Unlimited (last visited 25 January 2007).
  8. ^ a b A Sport of NatureNadine Gordimer: , The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards.
  9. ^ New Yorker, 9 June 1951.
  10. ^ "A mixture of ice and fulfilled desire".  
  11. ^ a b c Jonathan 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. ^ The W. H. Smith Commonwealth Literary Award.
  14. ^ Gail Caldwell, "South African Writer Given Nobel", The Boston Globe, 4 October 1991.
  15. ^ "BookForumRadiation, Race, and Molly Bloom: Nadine Gordimer Talks with ", BookForum, Feb / March 2006.
  16. ^ Gordimer wrote an account of the censorship in "What Happened to Burger's Daughter or How South African Censorship Works".
  17. ^ BBC News, "South Africa reinstates authors", 22 April 2001.
  18. ^ a b "Gordimer detractors 'insulting', says Asmal",, 19 April 2001.
  19. ^ Anuradha Kumar, "New Boundaries", The Hindu, 1 August 2004.
  20. ^ a b c Donald Morrison, "Nadine Gordimer", Time Magazine, 60 Years of Heroes (2006).
  21. ^ Christopher S. Wren, "Former Censors Bow Coldly to Apartheid Chronicler", New York Times, 6 October 1991.
  22. ^ a b Agence France-Presse, "Nobel laureates join battle against AIDS", 1 December 2004.
  23. ^ Gordimer and literary giants fight AIDS,, 29 November 2004.
  24. ^ Nadine Gordimer and Anthony Sampson, The New Review of BooksLetter to , 16 November 2000.
  25. ^ Johnson, RW (29 October 2006). "Nobel writer Nadine Gordimer, 82, attacked and robbed". London:  
  26. ^ Jannika Hurwitt, Interview with Gordimer, Paris Review, 88, Summer 1983.
  27. ^ a b Donadio, Rachel (31 December 2006). "Nadine Gordimer and the Hazards of Biography". New York Times. Retrieved 12 April 2007. 
  28. ^ "SA novelist Nadine Gordimer dies".  
  29. ^ Smith, David (15 July 2014). "Nadine Gordimer dies aged 90".  
  30. ^  
  31. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Nadine Gordimer". Books and Writers ( Finland:  
  32. ^ Judith Norman, "The Lying DaysSpecial Commissioned Essay on ".
  33. ^ The Conservationist
  34. ^ "Bram Fischer Human Rights Programme". Wits School of Law. 2005. Archived from the original on 4 July 2007. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  35. ^ Dwight Garner and Nadine Gordimer, The Salon Interview: Nadine Gordimer, March 1998.
  36. ^, ReadingGroup Guide, The House Gun by Nadine Gordimer.
  37. ^ 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.
  38. ^ J.M. Coetzee Loot and Other Stories and The PickupReview of ,, 23 October 2003.
  39. ^ Sue Kossew, "The PickupReview of Nadine Gordimer, ", Quodlibet, v.1, February 2005.
  40. ^ Penguin Book Clubs/Reading Guides, The PickupNadine Gordimer's ,; accessed 19 June 2015.
  41. ^ Anthony York, " by Nadine GordimerThe Pickup" (book review),, 6 December 2001.
  42. ^ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (20 November 1923). "UNHCR Gordimer, Nadine". Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  43. ^ Mehren, Elizabeth (16 May 1985). "Merger Of The Arts, Scholarship, Funding : Rome Prize Sidesteps The Cutbacks".  
  44. ^ Celean Jacobson, "Nadine Gordimer awarded Legion of Honour", Mail & Guardian Online, 1 April 2007.
  45. ^ Davies, Dominic. "A Very Long Engagement". The Oxonian Review. 


See also

List of works

Honours and awards

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.[20]

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.[38][39][40][41]

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.[35][36][37]

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.

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 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][34]

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,[33] 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.

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.

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]

Overview of critical works

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.

Works, themes, and reception

Gordimer died in her sleep on 13 July 2014 at the age of 90.[28][29] An account of her private life appeared in Jillian Becker's obituary in the September 2014 issue of Standpoint ("Nadine Gordimer – Comrade Madam").[30]

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]

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 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]

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]

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.

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]

Gordimer's activism was not limited to the struggle against apartheid. She resisted International PEN.

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 in 1991, which noted that Gordimer "through her magnificent epic writing has—in the words of Alfred Nobel—been of very great benefit to humanity".[1]

[5], 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.Mosiuoa Lekota, Simon Nkoli (See [20][5] on behalf of 22 South African anti-apartheid activists.Delmas Treason Trial 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 [5]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.