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South African Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer explains why she fought against Apartheid
Not even in October 2006, when three black men broke into her house to attack her and rob her, did Nadine Gordimer ever think that there was another place she could live other than Johannesburg, South Africa.
Nadine Gordimer (foto di Lica Galassi)The winner of a Nobel Prize for literature, and protagonist at a meeting held Monday evening in the Palazzo Clerici in Milan (headquarters of ISPI – The Institute of International Policy Studies), Gordimer tells PeaceReporter that she never wanted to flee her country. Not even when she began to realise at the age of 15 that black people where foreigners in their own – and her own – country, when she resolved that from that moment forth to use her pen as a weapon against any kind of racial injustice. Not even when the discrimination reached its peak at the beginning of the nineties, when to live in Johannesburg meant living at the heart of a storm of persecution, violence, looting, kidnapping, rape and murder. Not even after Mandela’s African National Congress (of which Gordimer was a member) won the 1993 elections, commencing a new era – albeit somewhat problematic – of cohabitation between black and white people.

Nadine Gordimer (foto di Luca Galassi) “Being responsible”. Introduced by Boris Biancheri, former Ambassador to Tokyo, London and Washington, and by the current president of ISPI, here is Nadine Gordimer, who offered the experience of her 84 years and her remarkable instantaneous rise to the stage of the Palazzo Clerici. The same Gordimer that advocated the black cause in American universities in the sixties and seventies, where she had part-time contracts or took over the role of visiting professor. The same Gordimer who, during the Nobel Prize acceptance speech, maintained that a writer “is a responsible human being who must dutifully stir the insides of the social context”. The same Gordimer who wrote in La Repubblica in 2003 that she found black men much more attractive than white men.

Nadine Gordimer (foto di Luca Galassi) Alongside the weakest. Nadine Gordimer, honoured one of the most prestigious prizes for her commitment against racial discrimination in South Africa, received the 1991 Nobel Prize because according to the Swedish Academy, “Her magnificent epic writing conveyed the complexity of a nation’s events that (after the National Democratic Revolution independence) were beginning to develop and exist”. The author of A Guest of Honour, July’s People and Get a Life, to name some of her most famous novels, explained to PeaceReporter during the discussion at Palazzo Clerici, headquarters of ISPI, why she has never wanted to flee her country, even in its most difficult moments. Despite the fact that the luxurious Tiepolo frescoes, the opulent chandeliers and the golden decoration in the hall were not very apt as a background for the reading of some extracts of July’s People, focused on the poverty of black people, Gordimer listened patiently to the audience’s questions, which included: “Why have you never wanted to flee South Africa? Why did you not choose an easier life, a less dangerous life, someplace else?”

Nadine Gordimer (foto di Luca Galassi) Life choice. “There was a time when”, explained the Nobel Prize winner, “as one of the few white members of the African National Congress (a party than was then outside of the law) I asked myself: Why am I here? What is my role in the ANC? There were indeed few white people that worked for the Liberation Movement. I said to myself: I must be better, braver, I must do more and I would probably end up in prison. I also told myself: I have friends in Zambia, which had recently gained independence, I can go there and return to South Africa once things have changed. But then I told myself: If I go I’ll feel like a refugee, I will be another member of the white European Community made up of engineers, technicians and lecturers, that finds themselves there for a short space of time, without a vote, without civil responsibility to the Host Country. I thought I would feel as if I was living a life ‘under contract’ in Africa. After discussing it with my husband, who as a Jewish refugee had fled from Nazi Germany, we decided to stay and fight against Apartheid. We never regretted our decision. And we never felt more like citizens, like ‘political individuals’, like people, as we did in the moment that our free and universal vote arrived. Since then, my husband and I were able to vote together for people of all colours. Since then we have been able to live and experience freedom, the end of Apartheid. And what better recognition can there be in one’s life than this?”
Luca Galassi