Nadine Gordimer (1923-2014)
The grande dame of South African literature Nadine Gordimer never really considered herself an activist-writer, though she was closely associated with the anti-Apartheid movement and her work in protest against it opened the eyes of the world to the brutality and injustice of her country. In fact, in Literary Miniatures, reviewed alongside, she says: “I’ve been writing since I was nine years old, in a country where the air saturated with politics. My characters are naturally imbued with it. In fact, I am only telling the truth about the society in which I live.” In The Essential Gesture: Writing, Politics and Places, she quotes Camus, “When I become only a writer, I will stop writing.” Elsewhere, Gordimer says of writing: “Your whole life you are really writing one book, which is an attempt to grasp the consciousness of your time and place—a single book written from different stages of your ability.”
Gordimer’s first story was published when she was only 13 and she had come up with her first collection of stories, The Lying Days, before she turned 20. When the Nobel and Booker winner passed away, she left behind a corpus of 15 novels, plays and many collections of stories and essays. She was an admirer of Nelson Mandela and supported the African National Conference, even its use of arms against the oppressive regime. But of late, she had become a critic of the ANC too, for its move to bring secrecy laws by which the government could send whistleblowers and journalists to jail without trial. Gordimer was active till the end, celebrating her 90th birthday in Johannesburg in great style last November.