South African Nobel Prize-winning author Nadine Gordimer, an uncompromising moralist who became one of the most powerful voices against the injustice of apartheid, has died at age 90, her family said Monday.
Gordimer, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991, died peacefully at her Johannesburg home on Sunday evening in the presence of her children, Hugo and Oriane, a statement from the family said. “She cared most deeply about South Africa, its culture, its people and its ongoing struggle to realize its new democracy,” the statement said.
Regarded by many as South Africa’s leading writer, Gordimer was renowned as a rigid moralist whose novels and short stories reflected the drama of human life and emotion in a society warped by decades of white-minority rule. Many of her stories dealt with the themes of love, hate and friendship under the pressures of the racially segregated system that ended in 1994, when Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black president.
A member of Mandela’s African National Congress — banned under apartheid — Gordimer used her pen to battle against inequality of white rule for decades, earning her the enmity of sections of the establishment.
Some of her novels, such as A World of Strangers and a Burger’s Daughter, were banned by the apartheid authorities.
But Gordimer, a petite figure with a crystal-clear gaze, did not restrict her writing to a damning indictment of apartheid, cutting through the web of human hypocrisy and deceit wherever she found it. “”I cannot simply damn apartheid when there is human injustice to be found everywhere else,” she told Reuters shortly before winning her Nobel prize.
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In later years, she became a vocal campaigner in the HIV/AIDS movement, lobbying and fund-raising on behalf of the Treatment Action Campaign, a group pushing for the South African government to provide free, life-saving drugs to sufferers.
Nor did she shy away from criticising the ANC under President Jacob Zuma, expressing her opposition to a proposed law which limits the publication of information deemed sensitive by the government. Despite her place in the international elite, she maintained a passionate concern for those struggling at the bottom of South Africa’s literary heap.