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Nadine Gordimer: Literary world’s fearless spokesperson against apartheid

BY MAHADEV DESAI

Renowned  and one of the leading South African novelists,anti-apartheid  activist and Nobel Prize Laureate,90 years old  Nadine Gordimer passed away peacefully  in Johannesburg, on Sunday, July 13,2014.

Ms. Gordimer was born inGauteng,South Africain 1923. She grew up in a secular, middle class family. Worried about young Nadine’s health, her mother withdrew her from school.  She began writing from an early age. Her first story was published in a magazine when she was just 15 years old. Her prolific repertoire consisted of short stories, novels, political essays and literary criticism. In her writings she dealt with harsh, inhuman living conditions for the blacks under repressive racial discrimination and injustices by the white minority regime. Through her writings, the world became aware of the horrible effect of apartheid. She won numerous literary awards including the Man Booker Prize in 1974 for her novel’ The Conservationist’. She later won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991. The Swedish Academy  noted that Gordimer “through her magnificent epic writing has—in the words of Alfred Nobel—been of very great benefit to humanity” and added, “her continual involvement on behalf of literature and free speech in a police state where censorship and persecution of books and people exist have made her ‘the doyenne of South African letters.”

Her writings got her into trouble with the ruling white supremacist Government which  clamped down and banned her books,  ‘A World of Strangers’; ‘ The Late Bourgeois’ World’; ‘Burger’s Daughter’; and ‘July’s People’., under its repressive censorship laws. Expressing her concern for censorship her strong belief in freedom of expression, she said, ‘Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever.’

After the Sharpeville massacre, she played an active role in African National Congress. She also campaigned in the HIV/AIDS movement,   On behalf of the Treatment Action Campaign, she raised awareness of the problem and helped raise funds for preventing and alleviating it.She lived inJohannesburgbut visitedU.S.for short-term teaching at Universities. She also travelled internationally on lecture tours to inform the world about  apartheid, racial discrimination, subjugation and other injustices inSouth Africa.

She considered it her privilege to know, and be a longtime friend of Nelson Mandela. As an ANC member she fought for Mandela’s release. While in prison, Mr.Mandela read many novels written by Ms. Gordimer. After his release fromRobbenIslandprison, they kept in touch for the rest of his life.  The Nelson Mandela Foundation in its tribute said it was “deeply saddened at the loss ofSouth Africa’s grande dame of literature. “We have lost a great writer, a patriot and strong voice for equality and democracy in the world,” it added.

South African author JM Coetzee, said Gordimer “responded with exemplary courage and creative energy to the great challenge of her times, the system of apartheid unjustly imposed and heartlessly implemented on the South African people”.

Nadine Gordimer was literary world’s fearless spokesperson against apartheid and for racial and economic equality, justice and freedom. Her family said she “cared most deeply aboutSouth Africa, its culture, its people, and its ongoing struggle to realize its new democracy.”

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