Nadine Gordimer, Storyteller and Historian

Nadine Gordimer was born in and lived in South Africa, where she drew inspiration for her novels and short stories from what she called “the tragedy of [her] own particular place.” Gordimer, an anti-Apartheid activist, studied and wrote about master-servant relations and characteristics of South African life. When she won the Nobel Prize in 1991, The New York Times offered this:

Nadine Gordimer, whose novels of South Africa portray the conflicts and contradictions of a racist society, was named winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature today as her country finally begins to dismantle the system her works have poignantly explored for more than 40 years.

In a brief citation, the Swedish Academy, which confers the awards, referred to her as “Nadine Gordimer, who through her magnificent epic writing has — in the words of Alfred Nobel — been of very great benefit to humanity.”

The academy also added that “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.’”

Here is Nadine reading from her work, then talking with Steve Wasserman, as part of the Lannan Foundation’s Readings and Conversations series:

Nadine Gordimer with Steve Wasserman, 3 December 2003 – Audio

Nadine Gordimer, Reading, 3 December 2003 – Video
Nadine Gordimer with Steve Wasserman, Conversation, 3 December 2003 – Video

Gordimer died last Sunday at the age of 90. Times Live has a nice set of tributes (and was the source of our featured photo).