Gordimer was one of the leading chroniclers of life in apartheid South Africa in prize-winning books like The Conservationist (1971) and Burger's Daughter (1979). Her novels dealt with explicitly political themes, and she was also a fierce anti-apartheid activist in real life. Gordimer's books were often banned for years when they first appeared. She was awarded the Nobel in 1991.
Post-apartheid she continued to explore the conflicting claims of political activism and ordinary life in novels like The Pickup (2002).
Perhaps I know us too well through myself. But if somebody is partly frivolous or superficial, has moments of cruelty or self-doubt, I don't write them off, because I think that absolutely everybody has what are known as human failings. My black characters are not angels either. All this role-playing that is done in a society like ours—it's done in many societies, but it's more noticeable in ours—sometimes the role is forced upon you. You fall into it. It's a kind of song-and-dance routine, and you find yourself, and my characters find themselves, acting out these preconceived, ready-made roles. But, of course, there are a large number of white women of a certain kind in the kind of society that I come from who . . . well, the best one can say of them is that one can excuse them because of their ignorance of what they have allowed themselves to become.
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