Gordimer, Nadine

born Nov. 20, 1923, Springs, Transvaal, S.Af.

South African writer.

The daughter of Jewish immigrants, she published her first book, the story collection The Soft Voice of the Serpent, in 1952. Her later works include The Conservationist (1974, Booker Prize), Burger's Daughter (1979), July's People (1981), A Sport of Nature (1987), My Son's Story (1990), None to Accompany Me (1994), and The House Gun (1998). Written in a clear, controlled, unsentimental style, her works often concern exile and alienation. She was a strong opponent of her country's apartheid policy, and concerns about black-white relations are frequently expressed in her fiction. She received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991.

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▪ South African author
born Nov. 20, 1923, Springs, Transvaal, S.Af.
 South African novelist and short-story writer whose major theme was exile and alienation. She received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991.

      Gordimer was born into a privileged white middle-class family and began reading at an early age. By the age of 9 she was writing, and she published her first story in a magazine when she was 15. Her wide reading informed her about the world on the other side of apartheid—the official South African policy of racial segregation—and that discovery in time developed into strong political opposition to apartheid. Never an outstanding scholar, she attended the University of Witwatersrand for one year. In addition to writing, she lectured and taught at various schools in the United States during the 1960s and '70s.

      Gordimer's first book was The Soft Voice of the Serpent (1952), a collection of short stories. In 1953 a novel, The Lying Days, was published. Both exhibit the clear, controlled, and unsentimental technique that became her hallmark. Her stories concern the devastating effects of apartheid on the lives of South Africans—the constant tension between personal isolation and the commitment to social justice, the numbness caused by the unwillingness to accept apartheid, the inability to change it, and the refusal of exile.

      In 1974 Gordimer won the Booker Prize for The Conservationist (1974). Later novels include Burger's Daughter (1979), July's People (1981), A Sport of Nature (1987), and My Son's Story (1990). Gordimer addressed environmental issues in Get a Life (2005), the story of a South African ecologist who, after receiving thyroid treatment, becomes radioactive to others. She also wrote a number of short-story collections, including A Soldier's Embrace (1980), Crimes of Conscience (1991), and Loot and Other Stories (2003). Living in Hope and History: Notes from Our Century (1999) is a collection of essays, correspondence, and reminiscences. In 2007 Gordimer was awarded the French Legion of Honour.

Additional Reading
Gordimer's work is examined in Rowland Smith (ed.), Critical Essays on Nadine Gordimer (1900); Stephen Clingman, The Novels of Nadine Gordimer, 2nd ed. (1992); and Dominic Head, Nadine Gordimer (1994).

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Universalium. 2010.

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