Writers, poets and academics commemorated Nobel Prize winning author Nadine Gordimer's contribution to South African literature with speeches and readings from her work at Rhodes University on Wednesday. Author Denis Hirson, the Mellow writer in residence this year, opened the event with the following remarks:
Nadine Gordimer wrote 15 novels, 21 books of short stories, a play, 5 collections of essays, countless articles, as well as introductions to books by others. She received at least 25 major prizes and awards in more than a dozen countries, including the Booker Prize for The Conservationist in 1974 and the Nobel Prize for literature in 1991.
If she were to be remembered by any one phrase, it may be this: “The truth is not beautiful, but the search for it is.”
This means that her life, like her work, was a quest, which took her into the light and darkness of both personal relationships and questions of power in this country, whose “history from within” (Stephen Clingman’s phrase) she charted from her first novel, The Lying Days, in 1953, to her last, No Time like the Present, in 2012.
She has been described as a petite giant, regal, somewhat cold in manner, with an eloquence straight out of the nineteenth century; irresistibly attractive, a deep and sympathetic listener. Anton Harber says she was “prepared to grubby herself in the messy world of struggle politics”.
Towards the end of her life, Jane Rosenthal called her “birdlike, but nothing glamorous, just a little mossie”. Testimony to her personal acts of generosity has poured across the pages of newspapers in the past week.
Someone asked me recently whether I was a fan of Gordimer’s. But this question makes no sense to me. It would be like asking whether one was a fan of the elephants in the Addo Elephant Park, or a fan of the planet Mars. They are simply there, undeniable elements of their environment, as was and is Nadine Gordimer here. It is vitally important that her work and her memory should be kept alive.
She wrote of the “essential gesture” which involved a shift from “self-absorbed creativity” to “conscionable awareness” and this meant that not only was she an extremely productive writer, but also that she had a strong presence as witness and/or actor in events stretching back to the Bram Fischer trial in 1964, and forward to virulent protest against the ANC-led Protection of State Information bill.
A twisted recognition of her reach came when three of her novels were banned by the apartheid regime, and later when there was a threat that one of them, July’s People, might be banned when the ANC came to power. She continuously walked the bridge between the finely written page and the fiercely contested public stage.
Her energies flowed from one realm to the other, and in both she was a palpably powerful sounding-board of this society. I hope the testimonies and readings, as well as your own from the audience, will make her literary, social and personal presence both evident and memorable this evening.
By Staff reporter
Source: Grocott’s Mail
Picture source: Nobel Prize websiteSource: Grocott's Mail
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