Author Spotlight On Nadine Gordimer

A towering figure in the history of political activism, Nadine Gordimer remains one of the greatest legends to ever put pen to paper on the black continent. Throughout her career, she published works which did not just entertain but repeatedly questioned the inhumane racial superstructures of her society. She is remembered today as a voice which lives on, continually reminding us of the magnificent power of truth as a lasting virtue.

Early Days

Gordimer was born on November 20, 1923 in Guateng, a town just outside of Johannesburg.  Her father was a Jewish watchmaker from what is known today as Lithuania, while her mother was from London, England. While her father was very apolitical and unconcerned about the plight of black people in South Africa, her mother was the polar opposite. From her mother, who founded a crèche just for segregated black children, Gordimer learned activism.

Being rather precocious, her first published work “The Quest for Seen Gold” was released at age 15. She published her first work of adult fiction the following year.

In 1947, she gained admission to study at the University of Witwatersrand but only studied for a year before dropping out and moving to Johannesburg.

Nadine Gordimer

Photo accessed via Stockholm Shelf


Gordimer’s literary career cannot be divorced from her life as an activist. Her bibliography is full of themes of race, class, and politics in South Africa.

Though she had become involved in the anti-apartheid movement ever since she was an undergraduate at the university, meeting with other student-activists, she did not become fully involved until 1960. This was inspired by the arrest of her best friend, the radical activist Bettie du Toit and the Sharpeville massacre of black protesters on March 21, 1960.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, she was outspoken against racial injustice in her country, with focus on the apartheid system. Her works were deeply critical of the system. While her writing got her international renown during this time, it also made the government of South Africa very displeased with her. It began to censor her works. Her novel, “The Late Bourgeois World” was banned in 1976 for a whole decade. Another work of hers, A World of Strangers faced total censorship for 12 years.

She joined the rebel party, the African National Congress; fighting against discrimination of black South Africans. She was reported to have hated discrimination so much that she rejected a spot on 1998 shortlist for the Orange Prize because the award only recognizes female writers.

Over time, her international fame and recognition grew even larger and her works reached a global audience. This prominence of hers culminated in the 1991 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Nadine Gordimer

Photograph accessed via Channel 24

Gordimer’s literary career cannot be divorced from her life as an activist. Her bibliography is full of themes of race, class, and politics in South Africa.


Exceptional storytelling coupled with a dogged belief in freedom from the shackles of apartheid placed Gordimer on a legendary pedestal when compared to her peers. However, during her reign of brilliance in the world of letters, there were some notable figures dishing out delicious literary meals to humanity. In her class, we have names such as Chinua Achebe, Derek Walcott, Gunter Grass, Doris Lessing, Wole Soyinka, Toni Morrison, and J.M. Coetzee. 


Gordimer died on July 13, 2014, at age 90, survived by at least two children.


A highly-decorated woman, Gordimer won a lot of awards during her career. Here are a few of them:

Nadine Gordimer

Photograph accessed via

Published Works

Below is a list of most of Gordimer’s published works:


Short Stories


In conclusion, Gordimer’s life is a testament to the product of a marriage between purpose and passion. Though she is no more, her works resonate through history as one of the voices that pierced the thickets of apartheid in South Africa. Her love for activism and superb writing are inseparable, and these two traits made her a glowing light that guides young stars to the home of honor.

Now, it’s your turn to share your thoughts. What is it that inspires you about Gordimer and her works? Let us know in the comments section below.


Kanyinsola Olorunnisola is a poet, essayist, and writer of fiction. He is the Managing Editor of Kreative Diadem. He writes from Ibadan, Nigeria. His writings border on the themes of unease, racism, colonialism, terror and all things familiar to the black folk. He describes his art as that specialized literary alchemy which aims to extract beauty from the frail commonplaceness of words.
His experimental works have appeared or are forthcoming on such platforms as Brittle Paper, Kalahari Review, Bombay Review, Lunaris Review, African Writer,, Authorpedia, Kreative Diadem, Parousia Magazine, and Sampad International Journal. He was the 2016 recipient of the Albert Jungers Poetry Prize.


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