In This Article Nadine Gordimer

  • Introduction
  • Biographies
  • Bibliographies
  • Interviews
  • Journals
  • Nonfiction
  • Photographic Collaborations

African Studies Nadine Gordimer
by
Andries Walter Oliphant
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 July 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 November 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0164

Introduction

Nadine Gordimer is an internationally distinguished novelist, short-story writer, and essayist. The 1991 Nobel laureate was born into a Jewish family on 20 November 1923 in the small mining town of Springs, South Africa, 50 kilometers east of Johannesburg. Her father, who was born in Zagaré, Lithuania, arrived in South Africa at the age of thirteen, and her mother emigrated from England with her parents at age six. Nadine attended primary school until the age of eleven and received private tuition thereafter. Her real education, she observes, was through reading books loaned from the local library and the bookshelves of family friends. As a teenage protégée, she published her first fable at the age of thirteen and her first story at the age of fifteen. Early influences include Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Anton Chekhov, Victor Hugo, and, later, Virginia Woolf. Her writing inscribes the complex interplays between intimate, domestic, personal, and private spheres of life and social, political, and historical developments. Focused on South Africa, it is shaped by close observation and subtle inferences extracted from everyday experiences to signify historically and ethically. Its modes range across 20th-century modernist and socially engaged realism to postmodernist self-reflexivity. As a dissident writer during the apartheid years, her work generated divergent critical responses relative to the literary, aesthetic, and social leanings of critics, and some of her work was banned. In post-apartheid South Africa, her fiction has been criticized by some as prejudiced and stereotypical. Gordimer responded to this by asserting that for her, personal, artistic, and political freedoms are indivisible and that nothing will prevent her from writing what she wants to. She has been a lifelong opponent of censorship, and her work consists of novels, short-story collection, volumes of essays, film adaptations, photographic collaborations, and television documentaries. She is a recipient of numerous literary awards, honorary degrees, and distinctions and has served as a UN goodwill ambassador. Her work is widely translated, globally disseminated, and scrutinized by critics and scholars in many parts of the world. She died 13 July 2014 in Johannesburg.

General Overviews

This section is divided into earlier and later studies of Gordimer’s fiction. It provides an overview of her writing and its critical reception from 1947 to the present.

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