Nadine Gordimer (GAWR-duh-mur) established herself early in her career as a talented author of both short stories and novels that sensitively and subtly portray the complexities of life for blacks and whites in South Africa. Born to Isidore Gordimer, a jeweler, and Nan Myers Gordimer, Nadine had a comfortable childhood. She was educated in private schools, and she attended the University of Witwatersrand for one year. She married Gerald Gavron in 1949 and gave birth to a daughter, Oriane; the couple divorced in 1952. In 1954, Gordimer married Reinhold Cassirer, and together they had a son, Hugo.
Although Gordimer was initially recognized as a first-rate author of short stories, she has since become an important novelist as well. Her numerous awards and honors, which reflect her international reputation, include the W. H. Smith Literary Award in 1961, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1972, the Booker Prize in 1974, the Grand Aigle d’Or in 1975, the Malaparte Prize and the Nelly Sachs Prize in 1985, and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991.
Gordimer’s work has been praised for the best portrayal of black realities by a white author. In most of her work, she manages to address racial issues without being didactic. Although several of her books were originally banned by the Board of Censors in South Africa, Gordimer refused to appeal the bans and thus recognize the legitimacy of the board. Her opposition to the policy of apartheid made her an adversary of the government, yet she nevertheless identified herself as a loyal South African. Her continued presence in South Africa, after the end of apartheid, bespeaks her love of a country whose hills and history she paints with such delicacy and detail.
Gordimer’s early short stories were considered uneven by many critics, but the strength of plot and characterization make such stories as the title work of Livingstone’s Companions absorbing sojourn tales. Other collections, such as Six Feet of the Country and...