Freedom’s inspiration

Nadine Gordimer was a Nobel Prize-winning South African writer


Nadine Gordimer, who died last week, was a Nobel Prize-winning South African writer who assailed apartheid in her novels and short stories.

Ms. Gordimer’s words infuriated censors. But they reassured an imprisoned Nelson Mandela so much that he asked to meet her right after his release.

Her work is a stark, searching meditation on the politics of race and hatred. In her short story Once Upon a Time, a white family’s fanatical need for alarms, fences, and barbed wire as security against an oppressed black majority comes to be its own undoing. At a time when paranoia about foreigners and zeal for border militarization run high here, it’s a lesson well worth rereading.

Ms. Gordimer lived long enough to become disenchanted with the African National Congress, which she joined in its underground days as a protest movement. When the ANC became a corrupt governing party after the end of apartheid, she turned her attention to AIDS activism and public health awareness.

Nadine Gordimer was not just an accomplished wordsmith, but also a leading crusader against one of the world’s cruelest oppressions — and she won. Her words helped inspire that victory, and will continue to inspire many more.