(South African, 1923– )
Gordimer's first stories were published in 1949 and, since then, she has written over 200 short stories and eleven novels. In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. She is a shrewd and elegant commentator on racial injustice, consistently and intelligently opposing the apartheid regime.
One of her earlier novels, A World of Strangers (1958), follows the initiation of an English publisher, Toby Hood, into the politics of 1950s' South Africa. Hood is straddled between the segregated white and black worlds. He finds the black townships with their illegal alcohol and jazz music ‘exotic’ while unavoidably benefiting from the privileges of being white. The Conservationist (1974), which was co-winner of the Booker Prize in that year, is a powerful story about a wealthy white South African farmer who, as the novel progresses, sees power slip away from him as first a black body is discovered on his farm and finally a flood destroys his crops. Set in the near future, July's People (1981) is one of many novels written during the 1980s which speculated on the end of apartheid and what future that would bring for the white oppressors.
Gordimer has many volumes of short stories, but a good place to start is her Selected Stories (1975), a judicious selection from her first five volumes. The stories are set in South Africa and all of them through different literary devices confront the effects of apartheid on individual lives.
Alan Paton, Doris Lessing, André Brink EW