Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer dies aged 90

2014-07-14 15:15

Nobel laureate and writer Nadine Gordimer has died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 90, her family said.

“Her son Hugo and daughter Oriane and her caring helpers were with her... A private memorial service will be announced at a later date,” law firm Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs said in a statement today on behalf of the Gordimer family.

It said she died peacefully in her sleep at home in Johannesburg yesterday.

The family has declined interviews, saying it wanted to mourn privately.

“She was 90-years-old and will be lovingly remembered by her family, friends and literary colleagues.”

Gordimer was an unwavering critic of apartheid and an outspoken advocate of black majority rule.

Her fiction, which she saw as part of the struggle against apartheid, documented the havoc that institutionalised racism wrought on private lives.

Three of her works were banned by the government for varying periods because of their outspoken messages.

“I used the life around me and the life around me was racist,” she said in a 1990 interview.

“I would have been a writer anywhere, but in my country, writing meant confronting racism.”

Her distinguished literary career began in 1939 when, aged 15, she published her first short story in Forum magazine. Lying Days, her first novel, appeared in 1953 and was followed by 12 more.

She announced in 1990 that she had joined the African National Congress, and called for the continuation of economic sanctions against South Africa until it became a multiracial democracy.

She was one of the first people Nelson Mandela chose to meet when he was released from Robben Island prison in 1990.

In 1991, at the age of 67, she won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first woman to do so in 25 years.

“It is remarkable how often Nadine Gordimer succeeds in her artistic intent to burn a hole through the page,” said Sture Allen of the Swedish Academy in his introduction at the presentation in Stockholm.

“Some people say I got the prize not for what I’ve written, but for my politics,” she said afterwards.

“But I’m a writer. That’s the reason for me to be alive at all, as far as I’m concerned.”

She published over 200 short stories and numerous essays on literature and cultural politics.

» This article was updated after first published.

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