Heidi Trautmann

667 - South African writer Nadine Gordimer, Nobel laureate dies at the age of 90

There is no separation between social justice and literary concerns

By Heidi Trautmann


I have never met her personally in Johannesburg while we lived there but I know of her and have read her books with great concern, actually she made me aware of many things that went wrong in the ‘State of Denmark’. My friend Helen Sebidi and former house maid in the 70s of last century who started her artistic career in my house – I have often written about this phenomenal woman, see also my website – later became a neighbour of Nadine Gordimer and a friend.

Born in Springs, South Africa in 1923 as the daughter of a Jewish watchmaker from Latvia and a middle class woman from Britain, Gordimer started writing in earnest at the age of nine and produced 15 novels as well as several volumes of short stories, non-fiction and other works. She was published in 40 languages around the world. Her literary gaze was unsparing on both white minority rule and the governing African National Congress (ANC). Three of her books were banned under the apartheid regime. She was among the first people Nelson Mandela met on his release in 1990.

Gordimer won the Booker Prize in 1974 for ‘The Conservationist’, a novel about a white South African who loses everything, and the Nobel Prize in 1991, when apartheid was in its death throes. In her final book ‘No Time Like the Present’, she showed that history takes a long time to dismantle, of which I know as I am kept informed by my friends in South Africa.

She was chosen to be part of the ‘21 Icons of South Africa’, a documentary film by Adrian Steirn paying homage to the outstanding figures of the country starting with Nelson Mandela and also including my friend Helen Sebidi. You can watch the shortfilms on Youtube.


On the occasion of the party of her 90th birthday celebrated in Johannesburg last November one of the speakers said that she will now reach 100 easily, but she answered: Enough is enough! ….and she followed her words only a couple of months later on 13 July 2014.



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