Message of condolence by Minister Mthethwa on the passing of Nadine Gordimer

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14 Jul 2014

It was with sadness that we learnt of the passing on of South African literary giant and Nobel Laureate for Literature, Nadine Gordimer.

She was a renowned anti-apartheid critic and cultural activist who, from a young age, showed principled commitment to artistic freedom of expression and the ideal of non-racial and democratic society.

We offer our condolences to her family, friends and the writing fraternity in the country, continent and all over the world. Her contribution to national literary treasure is immeasurable and not even her death can erase it.

Gordimer saw her fiction as part of the struggle against apartheid to document the havoc that institutionalised prejudice and discrimination wrought on private lives.

Three of her works were banned by the government for varying periods because of their outspoken messages.

In fact, her distinguished literary career began in 1939 when, aged 15, she published her first short story.

She published over 200 short stories and numerous essays on literature and cultural politics - an output matched by only a handful of living writers.

Many of her works were banned by the apartheid government, including July’s People, The Late Bourgeois World and Burger’s Daughter.

She excelled at her craft and was the recipient of more than 20 international literary honours for her work, including the Booker Prize (for The Conservationist in 1961) and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991. She was the first woman to do so in 25 years.

In 1988 Gordimer courageously gave evidence in mitigation of sentence at the Delmas treason trial of UDF leaders when she told the judge she regarded Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo as her leaders.

She was one of the first people Nelson Mandela chose to meet when he was released from Robben Island prison in 1990.

Nadine Gordimer was Vice President of International PEN and is recognised as a founding member of the Congress of South African Writers, which she supported over the years.

In 2005, she received a South African Lifetime Achievement Literary Award and the Department of Arts and Culture has in 2007, created a South African Literary Award in her name. The Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award is given annually to writers who excel in this genre.

Gordimer was a public intellectual who took part in debates and was a robust contributor in literary and political discussions until the end of her days.

Nadine Gordimer was a daughter of the soil and was a courageous supporter for the liberation of our country and continued to speak for the voiceless right until the end. May her soul rest in peace.

Hamba kahle Qhawe lama qhawe.

             - Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Minister of Arts and Culture.

For further information, contact: Sandile Memela at 082 800 3750.