Nobel Prize-winning South African author Nadine Gordimer dies at 90

BY Margaret Myers  July 14, 2014 at 1:40 PM EDT
Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer, seen here in 2010 at the annual Hay Festival of Literature & Arts in Wales, died Sunday in Johannesburg. She was was 90 years old. Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)

Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer, seen here in 2010 at the annual Hay Festival of Literature & Arts in Wales, died Sunday in Johannesburg. She was was 90 years old. Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images

Nadine Gordimer, a South African Nobel Prize-winning author who wrote about the oppression in her country during the apartheid era, has died at the age of 90.

Gordimer, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1991, died at her home in Johannesburg on Sunday, in the presence of her children, Hugo and Oriane, according to a family statement.

“She cared most deeply about South Africa, its culture, its people and its on-going struggle to realize its new democracy,” the statement read.

Born in Gauteng, South Africa, in 1923, Gordimer became one of the most active anti-apartheid voices in the country. She was one of the first people that revolutionary Nelson Mandela asked to see when he was released from prison in 1990.

Her commitment to fight the injustice of racial inequality in South Africa shaped her role as an intellectual in the country.

“I think there’s a special responsibility about being a White in South Africa, as there is a special responsibility about being a Black,” she told the NewsHour’s Charlayne Hunter-Gault in 1987. “Nobody, I think, can just go on living there without taking sides.”


Watch the full 1987 interview with Nadine Gordimer:


Her work includes several collections of short stories, “Six Feet of the Country,” and “A Soldier’s Embrace,” among them. And 15 novels, including “The Conservationist,” which was a joint winner of the Man Booker Prize in 1974.

Gordimer spoke to Hunter-Gault about her book then recently published novel, “Sport of Nature,” a panorama of South African life and politics, as seen through the life of a young Jewish girl. Hunter-Gault asked Gordimer about her motivation to speak out so forcefully.

“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,” she said. “Nothing’s going to be perfect, but I believe in the future of South Africa. You’ve got to put your life on the line and show that you’re in the struggle.”

You can watch a remembrance of Gordimer on Monday’s PBS NewsHour.