JOHANNESBURG – Nadine Gordimer, a South African author who won the Nobel Prize for novels that explored the cost of racial conflict in apartheid-era South Africa, has died at the age of 90, her family said Monday.
Gordimer, who won the literature prize in 1991, three years before the end of white minority rule, died peacefully in her sleep at her home in Johannesburg on Sunday, the family said in a statement. Her son Hugo and daughter Oriane were with her at the time, it said.
Gordimer wrote 15 novels as well as several volumes of short stories, nonfiction and other works, and was published in 40 languages around the world, according to the family statement, which was released by a law firm.
“She cared most deeply about South Africa, its culture, its people, and its ongoing struggle to realize its new democracy,” the family said. They said her “proudest days” included winning the Nobel prize and testifying in the 1980s on behalf of a group of anti-apartheid activists who had been accused of treason.
Gordimer was first a fiction writer. As a white South African who hated apartheid’s dehumanization of blacks, she also played a political role in her country’s troubled history.
During the apartheid years, she praised Nelson Mandela, the prisoner who later became president, and accepted the decision of the main anti-apartheid movement, African National Congress, to use violence against South Africa’s white-led government.
“Having lived here for 65 years,” she said, “I am well aware for how long black people refrained from violence. We white people are responsible for it.”
She won the Booker Prize in 1974 for “The Conservationist,” a novel about a white South African who loses everything.
Among Gordimer’s best-known novels is “Burger’s Daughter,” which appeared in 1979, three years after the Soweto student uprising brought the brutality of apartheid to the world’s attention.
“Gordimer writes with intense immediacy about the extremely complicated personal and social relationships in her environment,” the Nobel committee said on awarding the literature prize in 1991.