Gordimer, Nadine 1923-
See also, Nadine Gordimer Criticism and CLC volumes 5, 7, 10, 18, 80 and 123.
South African short story writer, novelist, critic, essayist, and editor.
Gordimer has earned international acclaim as a writer who explores the effects of South Africa's apartheid system on both whites and blacks. Although the political conditions in her country are essential to the themes of her work, Gordimer focuses primarily on the complex human tensions generated by apartheid. Lauded for her authentic portrayals of black African culture, she is also praised for using precise detail to evoke both the physical landscape of South Africa and the human predicaments of a racially polarized society.
Born in South Africa to Jewish immigrants from London, Gordimer published her first story at the age of fifteen. Her short fiction soon appeared in periodicals such as Harper's and the New Yorker. Except for several brief stays in England and the United States, she has remained in South Africa. Gordimer won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991.
Major Works of Short Fiction
Gordimer's first stories were published in various notable American periodicals and were subsequently collected in her first major volume, The Soft Voice of the Serpent. From her initial collection to her most recent, Jump, and Other Stories, Gordimer's short stories often portray individuals who struggle to avoid, confront, or change the conditions under which they live, in particular the repressive South African political system of apartheid. The short fiction included in A Soldier's Embrace, for example, offers an ironic historical overview of South African society. In Something Out There Gordimer examines the temperament of individuals who unwittingly support the mechanisms of racial separation. Jump, and Other Stories continues her exploration of how apartheid insulates the daily lives of blacks and whites in South Africa.
Critical ReceptionMany critics have noted a connection between the tone of Gordimer's fiction and the deterioration of race relations and escalation of violence in her country during the late 1960s. Her work is viewed by many commentators as a social history of South Africa and its changing conditions; she is often praised for her delicate and insightful treatment of controversial issues. While some critics claim that her detached narrative voice lacks emotional immediacy, many regard her fiction as compelling and powerful and commend her prose for its clarity and poetic elegance. Merle Rubin has summarized Gordimer's literary achievements as "a precise ear for spoken language that lent great authenticity to her dialogue; a sensitivity to the rhythms and texture of the written word that gave her prose the power of poetry; a keen eye that made her a tireless observer; an even keener sense of social satire based upon her ability to see through appearances to the heart of the matter, and a strong feeling of moral purpose, composed in equal parts of her indignation at the sheer injustice of South Africa's entrenched racial oppression and of her commitment to speak the truth as she saw it."