Nadine Gordimer: Human Rights Advocate

As a writer and political analyst, Nadine Gordimer has long been a notable figure, both in her home country of South Africa, and internationally. In 1991 she was the first South African to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, where her literary genius was described as being of great benefit to humanity. Her ability to see and describe moral and racial issues, and the emotions these issue invoke, in the context of South Africa’s apartheid era has made her a part of South African history that will not be forgotten. Gordimer was a member of the African National Congress at the time when it was under ban, and was active in the anti-apartheid movement.

Born in the East Rand mining town of Springs in the Transvaal Province (now Gauteng) on 20 November 1923, Nadine Gordimer’s talent for writing was evident at a young age, with her first short story being published in a local magazine when she was fifteen years of age. She received her education at a convent school and studied at the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg. Her first book was a collection of short stories titled Face to Face published in 1949, with her first novel The Lying Days being published in 1953. Her bibliography eventually listed thirteen novels, more than two hundred short stories and numerous essays, as well as dramatic screenplays for television and the script for the film Frontiers. In addition to the Nobel Prize for Literature, she was awarded the Booker Prize in 1974 for The Conservationist. Gordimer has also been the recipient of fifteen honorary doctorates and fourteen honorary degrees. Her novel The Pickup was published in 2001 and listed as a nominee for the Booker Prize, winning the 2002 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the region of Africa in 2002.

Through all the upheaval in the country’s politics, Gordimer chose to remain in South Africa, where she was a support for black South Africans who had no public voice at the time. She also found her fellow South Africans to be a source of inspiration and, unlike historians who simply record the facts, Gordimer revealed the complexities of living under the apartheid regime from the point of view of those being marginalized. South Africa has gone through tremendous political and social changes in the past two decades, and with apartheid relegated to the pages of history, this talented and compassionate advocate for human rights continues to be an inspiration to those around her in post-apartheid South Africa, adding her voice to HIV/AIDS and Right 2 Know campaigns.