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Biography of Nadine GORDIMER

South Africa > Literature : Nadine GORDIMER

Nadine GORDIMER
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Born on 20/11/1923 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Nadine Gordimer. South African writer and political activist ,born in Nov 20,1923,died July 13,2014.

In her novels, essays and other works, Gordimer was one of the leading voices against South Africa's apartheid system, which segregated black and white people and led to decades of unrest. Three of her novels, including "Burger's Daughter" (1979), were banned by the government -- a reaction she fully expected, given their subject matter.

 

South African novelist and short-story writer, who received Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991. Most of Nadine Gordimer's works deal with the moral and psychological tensions of her racially divided home country. She was a founding member of Congress of South African Writers, and even at the height of the apartheid regime, she never considered going into exile.

    "A line in a statute book has more authority than the claims of one man's love or another's. All claims of natural feeling are over-ridden alike by a line in a statute book that takes no account of humanness, that recognizes neither love nor respect nor jealousy nor rivalry nor compassion nor hate - nor any human attitude where there are black and white together. What Boaz felt towards Ann; what Gideon felt towards Ann, what Ann felt about Boaz, what she felt for Gideon - all this that was real and rooted in life was void before the clumsy words that reduced the delicacy and towering complexity of living to a race theory..." (from Occasion for Loving, 1963)

Nadine Gordimer was born November 20,1923 into a well-off family in Springs, Transvaal, an East Rand mining town outside Johannesburg. It was the setting for Gordimer's first novel, THE LYING DAYS (1953). Her father was a Jewish jeweler originally from Latvia and her mother of British descent. From her early childhood Gordimer witnessed how the white minority increasingly weakened the rights of the black majority. Gordimer was educated in a convent school. She spent a year at Witwaterstrand University, Johannesburg without taking a degree.

Often kept at home by a mother who imagined she had a weak heart, Gordimer began writing from the age of nine. Her first story, 'Come Again Tomorrow', appeared in the children's section of the Johannesburg magazine Forum when she was only fourteen. By her twenties, Gordimer had had stories published in many of the local magazines. In 1951 the New Yorker accepted a story, publishing her ever since.

From her first collection of short stories, FACE TO FACE (1949), which is not listed in some of her biographies, Gordimer has revealed the psychological consequences of a racially divided society. The novel The Lying Days (1953) was based largely on the author's own life and depicted a white girl, Helen, and her growing disaffection toward the narrow-mindlessness of a small-town life. Other works in the 1950s and 1960s include A WORLD OF STRANGERS (1958), OCCASION FOR LOVING (1963), and THE LATE BOURGEOIS WORLD (1966). In these novels Gordimer studied the master-servant relations, spiritual and sexual paranoias of colonialism, and the shallow liberalism of her privileged white compatriots.

Occasion for Loving was concerned with the "line in a statute book" - South Africa's cruel racial law. In the story an illicit love affair between a black man and a white woman ends bitterly. Ann Davis is married to a gentle Jew called Boaz Davis, a dedicated scholar who has travelled all over the country in search of African music. Gideon Shibalo, a talented painter, is black, he has a marriage and several affairs behind. The liberal Mrs Jessie Stilwell is a reluctant hostess to the law-breaking lovers. Boaz, the cuckold, is on the side of the struggling South African black majority, and Ann plays with two men's emotions.

   
Gordimer won early international recognition for her short stories and novels. The conservationist (1974) juxtaposed the world of a wealthy white industrialist with the rituals and mythology of Zulus. Burger's daughter (1979) was written during the aftermath of Soweto uprising. In the story a daughter analyzes her relationship to her father, a martyr of the antiapartheid movement. July's people (1981) was a futuristic novel about a white family feeing from war-torn Johannesburg into the country, where they seek refuge with their African servant in his village. Gordimer's early short story collections include Six feet of the country (1956), Not for publication (1965) and Livingstone's companions ( 1971). The historical context of the racial divided society has also been the fundamental basis of her short stories. In 'Oral History' from A Soldier's  embrace (1980) the village chief has chosen the side of the oppressors. After his village is destroyed he commits suicide. Gordimer examines coolly the actions of her protagonist, linking the tragic events in the long tradition of colonial policy. In the background of the story is the war of independence in Zimbabwe (1966-1980). Gordimer uses the mopane tree as a symbol of life and death - the chief hangs himself in the mopane, the dead are buried in the mopane, and finally the tree becomes a means of consolidation."The women are to be seen carrying tins and grain panniers of mud up from the river. In talkative bands they squat and smear, raising huts again. They bring sheaves of reeds exceeding their own height, balanced like the cross-stroke of a majuscular T on their heads. The men's voices sound through the mopane as they choose and fell trees for the roof supports."

Since 1948 Gordimer has lived in Johannesburg. She has also taught in the USA in several universities during the 1960s and '70s. Gordimer has written books of non-fiction on South African subjects and made television documentaries, notably collaborating with her son Hugo Cassirer on the television film Choosing Justice: Allan Boesak. In the house gun (1998) Gordimer explored the complexities of the violence ridden post-apartheid society through a murder trial. Two white privileged liberals, Harald and Claudia Lindgard, face the fact that their architect-son, Duncan, has killed his friend Carl Jesperson.

"Her latest fiction shows a welcome readiness to pursue new avenues and a new sense of the world," wrote J.M. Coetzee on Gordimer in The New York Review of Books (October 23, 2003). In the pickup (2001) the basic setting reminds in some points the famous film Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1962), starring Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo. Julie is the daughter of a rich investment banker. Her car breaks down, and at a garage she meets Ibrahim, an illegal immigrant from an Arab country. The two young people from different cultures start a love affair. Although their background separates them, sex crosses all the cultural barriers, but does not stop Ibrahim striving for money and success, the good things of life that the West can offer. "It's extremely hard to write beautifully about the power of sex," said Andrew Sullivan in The New York Times (December 16, 2001), "of its capacity to elevate humans out of worlds that would divide them, of its occasionally transcendent quality. But Gordimer writes about it so easily we barely notice the accomplishment." Another theme in the book is Julie's maturation. When Ibrahim faces deportation from South Africa, she insists on leaving the country with him. Julie marries Ibrahim and settles in his home country.

In October 2006, Gordimer was robbed at her old Parktown house. The thieves also locked her in a storeroom. She did not sustain serious physical injuries.
March 31,2007, she 's been decorated by the French "Légion d'honneur".

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY:

    * FACE TO FACE, 1949
    * THE SOFT VOICES OF THE SERPENT, 1952
    * THE LYING DAYS, 1953
    * SIX FEET OF THE COUNTRY, 1956
    * A WORLD OF STRANGERS, 1958 - Vieraat toisilleen
    * FRIDAY'S FOOTPRINT AND OTHER STORIES, 1960
    * OCCASION FOR LOVING, 1963 - Rakkaus kielletty
    * NOT FOR PUBLICATION, 1965
    * LATE BOURGEOIS WORLD, 1966
    * ed.: SOUTH AFRICAN WRITING TODAY, 1967 (with L. Abrahams)
    * GUEST OF HONOUR, 1970
    * LIVINGSTONE'S COMPANIONS, 1971
    * THE BLACK INTERPRETERS, 1973
    * THE CONSERVATIONIST, 1974
    * SOME MONDAY FOR SURE, 1976
    * BURGER'S DAUGHTER, 1979 - Burgerin tytär
    * NO PLACE LIKE, 1979
    * A SOLDIER'S EMBRACE, 1980
    * TOWN AND COUNTRY LOVERS, 1980
    * JULY'S PEOPLE, 1981 - Palvelija ja herra
    * SOMETHING OUT THERE, 1984
    * LIFETIMES: UNDER APARTHEID, 1986
    * A SPORT OF NATURE, 1987 - Luonnonoikku
    * THE ESSENTIAL GESTURE, 1988
    * MY SON'S STORY, 1990 - Poikani tarina
    * CRIMES OF CONSCIENCE, 1991
    * JUMP, AND OTHER STORIES, 1991 - Hyppy ja muita novelleja
    * WHY HAVEN'T YOU WRITTEN? 1992
    * NONE TO ACCOMPANY ME, 1994 - Ei seuraa matkalleni
    * WRITING AND BEING, 1995
    * THE HOUSE GUN, 1998
    * THE PICKUP, 2001
    * LOOT AND OTHER STORIES, 2003
    * GET A LIFE, 2005






Last update : 07/14/2014


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