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South African novelist, Nobel winner, dies at 90

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Nadine Gordimer, the white South African author whose novels captured the despair and outrage of apartheid and the uneasy coming to terms with its legacy after racial separatism was outlawed, has died. She was 90.

She died Sunday in her sleep at her family home in Johannesburg, Andrew Bembridge, a lawyer representing the family, said in an interview.

A vocal opponent of all-white rule, Gordimer in 1991 became the first South African to win the Nobel Prize for literature. She devoted most of her writing to exploring racial segregation and the relationship between black and white South Africans. Three of her books were banned by the apartheid government, including her most famous, “July’s People.”

Published in 1981, “July’s People” told of a white family forced to flee a civil war and hide in the village of one of its black servants. It is still widely taught in schools and universities.

“I am what I suppose would be called a natural writer,” Gordimer said in her Nobel lecture. “I did not make any decision to become one. I did not, at the beginning, expect to earn a living by being read. I wrote as a child out of the joy of apprehending life through my senses – the look and scent and feel of things; and soon out of the emotions that puzzled me or raged within me and which took form, found some enlightenment, solace and delight, shaped in the written word.”

J.M. Coetzee, the author of “Disgrace” and “Life & Times of Michael K,” in 2003 became the second South African author to win the Nobel Prize.

Nadine Gordimer was born on Nov. 20, 1923, to Jewish immigrants Isidore and Nan Gordimer, in the small gold-mining town of Springs.

The first of her 15 novels, “The Lying Days,” published in 1953, was set in Springs and based on her own life. Her other books included “A Guest of Honour,” “Burger’s Daughter,” “My Son’s Story” and “The Conservationist,” which shared the 1974 Booker prize.

Her last novel, “No Time Like the Present,” was published in March 2012.

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