South African writer-activist Nadine Gordimer passed away on Sunday July 13th at her home in Johannesburg.
A recipient of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature, Gordimer’s novels have graced the curriculum of African studies departments across the country, prompting readers to think deeper on racial issues and the influence of apartheid in South Africa. The vocal content of her novels, often political, resulted in three of her books being banned during the apartheid era.
The author was born in early 1920s Johannesburg to a Latvian father and an English mother; the pair helped shape Gordimer’s political imagination. For Gordimer, the purpose of writing was to, “explain the mystery of life and the mystery,” which included, “the personal, the political, the forces that make us what we are while there’s another force from inside battling to make us something else.”
In an interview for the Nobel Prize, Gordimer narrated one of the experiences that stimulated her awakenings about race, where her parents’ home was raided by policemen in order to search for beer in the black housemaid’s room. Her parents offered no resistance to the servant’s humiliation; this incident inspired one of her first stories.
Gordimer’s activism extended beyond her novels to include testifying at the 1986 Delmas trial on behalf of 22 ANC members who had been accused of treason. The activist's reputation so preceded her that Nelson Mandela requested to meet her, upon his release from prison in 1990.
She spread her influence by lecturing at universities, including Princeton and Harvard.
Her family says she passed peacefully in her sleep.