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The Life of South African Author Nadine Gordimer

This past week saw the death of South African author and political activist Nadine Gordimer. Over her long life she wrote many novels and short-stories; her works had an international appeal, being translated into many foreign languages. Her works included the novels My Son’s Story, Burger’s Daughter and July’s People. In 1974 she jointly won the Man Booker Prize for her work, The Conservationist. In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Her literary works included novels and short stories. She touched on themes in her works that echoed the troubled history that marked the times in South Africa in which she lived. She wrote from an early age with her first works being published in her youth. Her parents were both immigrants; her father from Latvia, and her mother from England. Following Sharpeville massacre in 1960 and the arrest of a friend, she would join the African National Congress (ANC) in it’s fight against the apartheid regime; during a time when it was banned by the apartheid government. With the ANC she would fight for the release of Nelson Mandela, in whom she would develop a strong friendship. During Mandela’s 1962 trial, he would give a famous speech; Mandela’s “I am Prepared To Die” speech was edited by Gordimer. And upon Mandela’s release from prison, she was the first person he wanted to meet; having read all of her non-banned works while in jail. She would teach on occasions during the 1960s and 1970s in the United States. Upon her death, the Nelson Mandela Foundation noted on it’s website, “We have lost a great writer, a patriot and strong voice for equality and democracy in the world”. During the apartheid regime, a number of her works were banned including The Late Bourgeois World, written in 1966, Burger’s Daughter written in 1979, and July’s People written in 1981.  Her last work was published in 2012, the title, No Time Like the Present; which dealt with the subject of those who fought against the apartheid regime and their efforts dealing with the problems of modern day South Africa. In addition to her work with the ANC, she was involved in the lobbying and fund-raising efforts of the Treatment Action Campaign, which lobbied the South African Government to provide drugs needed by peoples suffering with HIV/Aids; a cause she was vocally in support of. Gordimer was critical of legislation proposed during South African President Jacob Zuma’s time in office; the Protection of State Information Bill which would have effectively provided any state agency the opportunity to limit or halt publications it deemed sensitive. Many saw this as an effort on the part of a government suffering widespread corruption to halt criticisms in the media. Gordimer as early as last month, “The reintroduction of censorship is unthinkable when you think how people suffered to get rid of censorship in all its forms.” In September 2013, President Zuma refused to sign the legislation; instead sending it back to the National Assembly with the intention it be given further thought. Gordimer’s family stated she died peacefully in her sleep and that her son Hugo and daughter Oriane were both with her at the time ; she was 90. 

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