I am told that one of the criteria for the Nobel Prize in Literature, apart from the quality of the means of expression, is that that the works of the writer should be of “benefit to mankind”. (Nadine Gordimer in When Art Meets Politics).
Thirteen novels. Over two hundred short stories. Several volumes of essays. Awarded fifteen honorary doctorates. Booker Prize winner in 1974 for The Conservationist.
Nobel Prize recipient in 1991.
Born in South Africa, Nadine Gordimer devoted most of her writing career to benefit mankind through her anti-apartheid writings. In one of her early essays in Telling Times Gordimer defines apartheid from both white and black perspectives.
When you offer an African guest a drink, you break the law unequivocally; the exchange of beer between your hand and his could land you both in the police court on a serious charge.
I’m not saying that things haven’t changed in South Africa. What I’m saying is that Nadine Gordimer’s writing was partly responsible for this change. The world is better for her writing.
In her post-apartheid writing Gordimer’s message is still about justice and violence. In her novel The House Gun she has a black South African lawyer defend a white man for murder. But the most striking statement in this novel is that had there not been a gun there would not have been a murder.
A house gun. If it hadn’t been there how could you defend yourself, in this city, against losing your hi-fi equipment, your television set and computer, your watch and rings, against being gagged, raped, knifed. If it hadn’t been there the man on the sofa would not be under the ground of the city.
Have you read any of Nadine Gordimer’s works?