100 World Class South Africans: Nadine Gordimer & JM Coetzee

2013-05-09 12:00

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Our Nobel writers

Nadine Gordimer once wrote: ‘The “problems” of my country did not set me writing; it was learning to write that sent me falling, falling through the surface of the “South African way of life”.’

Nadine Gordimer. Picture: Sasa Kralj/AP/Trace Images

From age 15, Gordimer used her words as political protest, in short stories and novels.

Many were banned,but her writing became a lens through which the rest of the world could view SA under apartheid tyranny.

She won the Booker Prize in 1974 for The Conservationist, and in 1991 became the first South African to receive the

Nobel Prize for Literature (the first woman in 25 years).


JM Coetzee, a candid and critical writer known for his razor-sharp prose, made world literary history by becoming the first to win the Booker Prize twice – in 1983 for The Life & Times of Michael K and in 1999 for Disgrace.

JM Coetzee. Picture: Mary-Ann Palmer

In 2003 he also received the Nobel Prize. These two writers opened the world’s eyes – and South Africans’ – to aspects of our society not easily seen or acknowledged.

And they continue their vigilance, most recently talking out on freedom of the press and anti-censorship.

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