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Nobel Prize-winning South African author Nadine Gordimer dies at 90

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Nadine Gordimer
Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

Nadine Gordimer, a South African writer whose work criticized her country’s apartheid and won her the Nobel Prize in Literature, has died. She was 90.

Born in South Africa in 1923, Gordimer published her first novel, The Lying Days, in 1953. But her preferred form was the short story. The New Yorker published her story A Watcher of the Dead in 1951, bringing her work to an international audience, and she eventually published 22 short-story collections over her lifetime as well as 15 novels and numerous plays and essay collections.

Under apartheid, three of Gordimer’s books were banned for their political content. Those three books—The ConservationistBurger’s Daughter, and July’s People—went on to become her most celebrated, and are considered essential in postcolonial literature. Gordimer identified South African readership as politically inclined. “In the recognition that the encouragement of literature is part of liberation, trade unions and community groups among the black majority have set up libraries and cultural debate.”

When Gordimer won the Nobel Prize in 1991, she spoke about how writing is a way of understanding the relationship between people and the world, and that political ideas play a part. “We spend our lives attempting to interpret through the word the readings we take in the societies, the world of which we are part,” she said. “It is in this sense, this inextricable, ineffable participation, that writing is always and at once an exploration of self and of the world; of individual and collective being.”