Nadine Gordimer

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Date: 1923 - Present

Region: Africa

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Literature


Artist: Nadine Gordimer

Confronting Bodies: South Africa's Publications Committee

Dates of Action: 1966, 1979, 2001

Location: South Africa

Description of Artwork: A couple of Nadine Gordimer's books were censored. The most famous case involves the novel Burger's Daughter which tells a fictional story with close ties to reality. The novel's main character is strongly influenced by the Balck Consciousness movement and one of the central characters is based on a prominent anti-apartheid leader. In this novel Gordimer also quotes frequently from banned or censored works.

The Incident: The first case of censorship Nadine Gordimer faced was in 1966 when the South African government banned her book The Late Bourgeois World. In June 1979 Burger's Daughter was published. A month after the book was published, the Publications Committee banned the book because they found it offensive on moral, religious, and political grounds. The Committee felt that the novel portrayed the reality of South African society too accurately and that this made the book subversive. This report on the novel was widely criticized and Gordimer herself wrote a critique and account of the censorship in What Happened to Burger's Daughter or How South African Censorship Works. In a strange turn of events the Publication Committee's own director appealed the ban and appointed a panel of literary experts to asses the merit of the novel. As a result of their findings the Appeal Board suggested that the book was too one-sided to be subversive. This was not, however, a total victory. In the Essential Gesture, a 1988 book by Gordimer, she points out that at the same time this decision was made two books by black authors were banned. The Committee also reversed the ban in an attempt to ease tensions between authors and the government. The censorship hurt Gordimer and Burger's Daughter by forcing Gordimer to downplay the political significance of the novel. Gordimer was also been transformed into a pawn of the government who used her as a supposed sign to the international community that they were relaxing censorship. Gordimer felt that the relaxation of censorship on the her works and the works of other white authors was an attempt to draw a divide between balck and white authors.

Results of Incident: In 1991 Gordimer won the Nobel Prize. In April 2001 she again faced censorship when Guanteg education department evaluators removed her book "July's People" from the province's reading list.

Source: "Censorship: A World Encyclopedia"