Where to start with the author, who has died at 90
Over the course of more than six decades, the Nobel-winning South Africa author Nadine Gordimer, who died on Sunday at 90, wrote more than a dozen novels and many more short stories. It’s a daunting oeuvre, throughout which she often returned to themes related to apartheid. For those daunted by her extensive bibliography, here’s where to start:
Face to Face
Gordimer’s first novel was still a few years away, but Face to Face — a collection of short stories — was the young author’s first book.
Telling Times : Writing and Living, 1954-2008
Telling Times wasn’t Gordimer’s last book (in 2012, her novel No Time Like the Present was published) but it’s the place to look for Gordimer’s nonfiction. The compendium of a half-century of work ranges from autobiography and travelogue to reflections on South African history and the great leaders of her time. The New York Times review of the book said that, even though a collection so vast is bound to have ups and downs, the work “reveals the power of ‘engagement,’ in the broad and humane sense.”
One of her best-known works, Burger’s Daughter concerns the life of a young daughter of South African anti-apartheid activists and how politics affects the personal. Along with A World of Strangers and The Late Bourgeois World, it’s one of the three Gordimer works banned by the South African government; Burger’s Daughter was the subject of a 1980 book about that nation’s censorship practices. Gordimer later said that she wasn’t surprised the book was banned, but that “if you are a writer you must write what you see.”
Gordimer won the Booker Prize — one of literature’s most prestigious — for this novel, about a rich South African man who buys a farm in order to find meaning in his life. The work was later shortlisted for the extra-prestigious “Best of the Booker” prize.
Year: 2003 for the collection of the same name; the story is copyright 1999.
For those who want to read her work right away, this is the way to go: the short story “Loot” is available for free on the Nobel website.