Nadine Gordimer

Nadine Gordimer

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.

Her novel The Conservationist (1974) won the Booker McConnell Prize in 1974. Later works include Burger's Daughter (1979), the short-story collection A Soldier's Embrace (1980), July's People (1981), and A Sport of Nature (1987).

Gordimer's work is examined in Rowland Smith (ed.), Critical Essays on Nadine Gordimer (1990); Stephen Clingman, The Novels of Nadine Gordimer, 2nd ed. (1992); and Dominic Head, Nadine Gordimer (1994).


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