Nadine Gordimer is remembered -- and lives on in social media

Nadine Gordimer is remembered -- and lives on in social media
South African writer and Nobel Literature laureate Nadine Gordimer, in 2008. Gordimer died July 13 in Johannesburg, at age 90. (Bikas Das / Associated Press)

Not long after Nadine Gordimer's death was announced Monday, her words began to circle the globe.

The South African Nobel laureate was born at a time when the telegraph was the quickest form of sending messages from one country to the next. And when she died Sunday, at age 90, people "telegraphed" Gordimer's words around the globe, via Twitter.


"The truth isn't always beauty, but the hunger for it is,"; Gordimer once wrote. In the hours after her death was announced, the quote was being retweeted on Twitter once every two or three minutes.

Many other Gordimer aphorisms were making the rounds on social media, including "Nothing factual that I write or say will be as truthful as my fiction" and "writing is making sense of life."

A variety of writers, readers and thinkers weighed in on Gordimer's death on Twitter.

"Stop all the clocks, the great Nadine Gordimer has died," novelist Rabih Alameddine wrote.

Canadian writer Margaret Atwood tweeted: "Very sorry to hear that Nadine Gordimer has died. One of the greats, and a fearless spokesperson for human rights."

In her native South Africa, politicians and leaders of all stripes offered words of condolence and appreciation. The FW de Klerk Foundation, which honors the memory of South Africa's last apartheid-era president, lauded Gordimer for her defense of freedom of expression. The African National Congress recalled that she had been a member of the organization and called her a "literary giant."

But writing in the Mail and Guardian, one of South Africa's most influential papers, book critic Jane Rosenthal noted the ambivalent relationship much of white South Africa had with Gordimer's work.

"For the average white South African reader, Gordimer's portrayal of white characters was too close to the bone and often very unattractive," Rosenthal wrote. Rosenthal noted that her own mother loved to read, and had a house full of books, but that she never owned a Gordimer novel.

For Rosenthal's mother, Gordimer's writing "would have seemed far too political and heavy, far too close to home, outrageous -- impertinent even."

But back on Twitter, many writers of color were acknowledging Gordimer's influence and the importance of her works' appeal to writers of color.

"Fellow Africans, literary world, & all humans of wisdom, a minute of silence in honour of our departed sister, the great #NadineGodimer, wrote Kenyan artist and writer Ouma Fred. "She was of white pigmentation & roots, yes, but her spirit was colourless & her zeal for social justice unchainable."

Several U.S. based publications honored Gordimer by reproducing the stories she had published here, and their interviews with her, including in the New Yorker and Harper's Magazine. Gordimer's interview with the Paris Review led many readers to share more Gordimer quotes on social media, including: "I didn't know I was a colonial, but then I had to realize that I was," and "writers, artists are very ruthless... I don't know how else we can manage."

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