Nobel Women

Nadine Gordimer
Guillermo Arias/AP

Happy Birthday, Nadine Gordimer, 1991 Winner of Nobel Prize in Literature

November 20, 2009
by Sarah Amandolare
Writer Nadine Gordimer has devoted her life to fighting for the rights and health of the less fortunate and oppressed. She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991 for showing “the true power of words,” having written 14 novels and 11 collections of short stories.

Born on November 20, 1923 and raised in South Africa, Nadine Gordimer has lived in the country formerly divided by apartheid all her life. But her gift has been her ability to express the normal, everyday issues faced by South Africans in the years following the end of apartheid. In her novel “Get a Life,” for example, Gordimer tells of an ecologist suffering from cancer who weathers radiation therapy while fighting against the plans to build a nuclear power plant.

Gordimer’s most treasured moment was not winning the Nobel Prize; instead, it was the testimony she provided “on behalf of 22 South African anti-apartheid activists” during a treason trial in 1986, Time reports. But that is hardly her only humanitarian achievement.

Gordimer conceived of a book called “Telling Tales,” a collection of stories by renowned authors like John Updike, Salman Rushdie and Susan Sontag, published in 2004. Gordimer explained to interviewer Charlie Rose in December 2004 that all proceeds from the book would go toward HIV/AIDS research.

“This is a huge problem. What do we do about the AIDS orphans? They have to be taken care of,” she told Rose. “There is a lot of denial, and they say ‘It can’t happen to us,” she said of developing countries’ attitudes regarding the AIDS pandemic.

For a complete biography, visit Nadine Gordimer’s page on the Nobel Foundation Web site.

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