Nadine Gordimer

by Claire Ling

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Nadine Gordimer was a South African novelist whose main topic was alienation and exile. She was born into a privileged middle class white family in Springs in 1923. Her parents were both immigrants, her mother was Scottish and her father was from Latvia. Both of them were Jewish. Because of South Africa’s social system, immigrants were placed below English settlers and white Afrikaners. The town she was born in was a gold mining town and she witnessed what the black workers had to go through. Even though Gordimer’s father had accepted the system, her mother did not agree with the injustice and founded a daycare for the black youth. The effects of the system were witnessed by Gortimer when police repeatedly raided their house to search their black housekeeper. When the National Party won its election in 1948, she had moved to Johannesburg with a self taught education of European literature and an unfinished degree. This is where she experienced Apartheid for the first time.
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During Apartheid

After releasing multiple story collection, a few novels and gaining popularity, Gordimer released her best of her early works, A World of Strangers, which was banned by the South African government but it continued to gain attention from outside of South Africa. She continued to write about the unjust structure of Apartheid despite the government’s opposition. Her story about a white woman who was in love with a black man, Occasion for Love, was also outlawed. As the fight between the government and the ANC grew, she volunteered to represent the group and traveled to the United States to give lectures at universities. She joined the ANC and even hid some of the fugitive leaders in her home. When her novel Burger’s Daughter was banned, she protested by writing a pamphlet, What Happened to Burger’s Daughter, which resulted in the ban being lifted. However, more bans followed of her books, but white South Africans still continued to read them. After Apartheid ended, Gordimer’s work continued to explore South Africa’s social issues when going through the transition out of Apartheid.
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Nadine Gordimer was very important to the ANC and Apartheid opposition. By writing her stories about the injustice she saw in South Africa, she spread awareness of the problems the country was experiencing. This awareness not only spread within the country, but also internationally. She also was a white representative for the ANC and traveled to the United States to lecture young adults about Apartheid to spread further awareness. This helped the group to gain support from outside sources to stop the social system. Also, the fact that whites were still reading her books when they were banned by the government shows how much influence they had on other people. Even though her books were banned repeatedly, she continued to write about the wrongdoings she saw that were happening. This shows her commitment to the cause that she fought for.
“Among the group of people waiting at the fortress was a schoolgirl in a brown and yellow uniform holding a green eiderdown quilt and, by the loop at its neck, a red hot-water bottle. Certain buses used to pass that way then and passengers looking out will have noticed a schoolgirl. Imagine, a schoolgirl: she must have somebody inside. Who are all those people, anyway? Even from the top of a bus, lurching on past as the lights go green, the group would not have looked like the usual prison visitors, passive and self-effacing about the slope of municipal grass.” - Burger's Daughter


"Nadine Gordimer | South African Author." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

"Nadine Gordimer Biography." -- Academy of Achievement. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

"Nadine Gordimer - Facts." Nadine Gordimer - Facts. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

"Nadine Gordimer: A Life In Pictures" The Guardian. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.