South African novelist Nadine Gordimer in Rome, May 29, 2006

South African author Nadine Gordimer, known for her unflinching look at apartheid in her works, died Monday in Johannesburg at the age of 90, the New York Times reports.

The 1991 Nobel laureate reportedly did not have her sights set on the heavy oppression that ruled her country in her youth, but she soon realized that she would be unable to get to the root of life in South Africa and be authentic without addressing it, according to the Times.

“I am not a political person by nature,” Gordimer would remark later in her life, the news site notes. “I don’t suppose if I had lived elsewhere, my writing would have reflected politics much, if at all.”

With more than 20 works in her repertoire ranging from short-story collections, to essays and novels, Gordimer tackled the racial injustices of her time with her characters.

Such was the unflinching honesty of her work that three of her works were banned from South Africa during apartheid. The first to be banned was her second novel, A World of Strangers, which was published in the late 1950s and was banned for 12 years, the Times notes. The Late Bourgeois World and Burger’s Daughter were also banned—the former for 10 years and the latter for a few months. 


Gordimer, who was born to Jewish immigrants in the late 1920s, was subject to criticism, with black Africans in the 1970s slighting her, arguing that she could not really tell the story from a black perspective, the Times reported.

“There are things that blacks know about whites that we don’t know about ourselves, that we conceal and don’t reveal in our relationships—and the other way about,” she would argue.

Read more at the New York Times.

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