Adios Nadine Gordimer

Bruce Gorton sent me the link to an excellent local tribute, which included this by Professor Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand:

Gordimer epitomised all that Wits University holds dear

Wits University has learnt with deep sadness of the passing of one of its most illustrious alumni, a great South African writer, and one of the world’s most esteemed literary figures, Nadine Gordimer. The University wishes to extend its sincerest condolences to her family, friends and the entire South African literary and academic community.

Gordimer was a dear friend to Wits, maintaining a lifelong connection to the University, and giving generously of her time. She often appeared on campus to participate in colloquia and alumni events. In addition, the Nadine Gordimer Lectures brought other luminaries such as Susan Sontag, Amartya Sen and Carlos Fuentes to Wits.

Gordimer studied at Wits where she mixed for the first time with fellow professionals from diverse racial, class and national backgrounds. She received an Honorary Doctorate in Literature from the University in 1984, in recognition of her immense contribution to literature and the transformation of South African society.

As a Nobel Prize-winning author, a powerful political activist, and a revered intellect, she epitomised all that Wits University holds dear. She will be greatly missed by the Wits community.

And by many other people, I should think. Salman Rushdie posted a photo on Facebook of himself with Gordimer and Gunter Grass, linking arms.

Gordimer was born in 1923.

Her mother was from an assimilated Jewish family, and thus her upbringing was secular.

She entered the anti-Apartheid movement in the 1960s, following her friend Bettie du Toit’s arrest.

In 1962 she helped edit Nelson Mandela’s famous I am prepared to die speech.

Gordimer won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991, for a long career in literature that saw many of her books banned by the Apartheid Government.

“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.

“She wrote as if censorship didn’t exist,” one critic posted on a South African website.

One of the greats.

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