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Nadine Gordimer, 90, Nobel-winning novelist who spoke out against apartheid

July 14, 2014 at 6:50 PM EST
Nadine Gordimer has died at the age of 90 at her home in Johannesburg. The Nobel Prize-winning writer and anti-apartheid activist used her pen to write damning indictments of South Africa's racial segregation. We look back at Charlayne Hunter-Gault’s 1987 interview with Gordimer about the prospect of having another book banned by the government.
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TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: remembering the Nobel Prize winning writer and anti-apartheid activist Nadine Gordimer, who died today at her home in Johannesburg.

Gordimer used her pen to write damning indictments of South Africa’s rigid system of racial segregation.

In 1987, she talked with the NewsHour’s Charlayne Hunter-Gault about the possibility that the white South African government could decide to ban the book she had just written. Three of her prior novels already had been banned in previous decades.

Here’s an excerpt.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What is it like to work and create and produce, knowing that the state might say, this will never see the light of day here?

NADINE GORDIMER, Anti-Apartheid Activist: Well, it didn’t quiet it to be writing in a world language.

So all of us who are banned there, who are also published outside, as well as in the country, at least we know that we reach other people. But that’s one thing. And you do want to be read by your own people in your own country.

So it happened to me three times. And I can only say that it’s a ghostly feeling, because you have spent, in this case of this book three-and-a-half years. It’s a long time of your life have gone into that book, and you have been living concurrently obviously with it. Things have been happening to you, to your friends, the society in which you live. And you really want their reactions to this book.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Under those circumstances in something you do can be banned, what goes through your mind as you create? Do you watch every word, every thought?

NADINE GORDIMER: It doesn’t hang over my head at all. I can only speak for myself. I never think about it, never.

And I think, if one did, that would be very inhibiting. And among the people I know, the writers I know, black and white, they don’t think about it either. You get lost in the work. You do the work. The thinking comes afterwards, when you read the book over. And then you think, oh, my God, you know, this may bring me into trouble or that may.

But I may say, in my case, I have never changed a single word, and I never would.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: You seem to be speaking out more publicly than in the past. What’s motivating that?

NADINE GORDIMER: Living there, realizing that one has a responsibility as a human being, as a white African.

It’s no good just saying, I believe that there’s going to be a post-apartheid South Africa, that there’s going to be justice there. Nothing is going to be perfect, but I believe in the future of South Africa. You have got to put your life on the line and show that you’re in the struggle.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Nadine Gordimer, who died today, was 90 years old.

You can watch Charlayne’s entire interview with her on our web site.