Her works will live on

2014-07-15 00:00

IN a sense, her life only really started when apartheid ended.

This is what writer and political activist Nadine Gordimer, who has died aged 90, told sister paper Beeld in an interview.

Gordimer, who was an unwavering critic of apartheid all her life, was disappointed that people only ponder about the past in novels.

“It is as if we suddenly became dumb about our own country.

“People do not want to write about a new way of living,” Gordimer said.

The Nobel laureate died in her sleep in her home in Parktown, Johannesburg on Sunday night.

She had written 15 novels and 12 collections of short stories as well as a number of non-fiction works.

Her last work was No Time Like The Present (2012).

Gordimer’s death comes about two weeks after Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa had wished her a speedy recovery at a press conference in Durban.

Although rumours were that Gordimer was struggling to breathe, her friend and confidante of many years, Maureen Isaacson, answered queries with the message that Gordimer “is okay”.

Late yesterday afternoon her family were receiving tributes from far and wide.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi said Gordimer’s death left an enormous feeling of loss, but “she will always be with us through her writings”.

Terry Morris from the publisher Pan Macmillan said it was an honour to print Gordimer’s books in South Africa.

“I wish I could work with her on more books.

“For me the most important aspect of Nadine Gordimer’s legacy is that she was outspoken against injustice, supression and the abuse of power.”

He said the extended corpus of Gordimer’s work had a lasting impact on exposing the destructive effect the apartheid system had on private spaces.

Poet and literary theorist Joan Hambidge said Gordimer had been criticised for her stereotypical portrayal of Afrikaners, but she had also told of the impact Uys Krige had on her and her work.

“She was also an outspoken atheist, but this did not limit her social involvement. On the contrary.

“She often spoke up against censorship, against the apartheid system, against violence and against the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Hambidge said Gordimer showed how South Africans should be critical and took her role as a responsible writer very seriously.

Gordimer once wrote: “If one will always have to feel white first, and African second, it would be better not to stay on in Africa. It would not be worth it for this.” She did not emigrate like some of her peers. Her funeral will be a private service and her family have yet to announce the date.

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