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01 December 2023

Toni Morrison, author and Nobel laureate, dies aged 88

Photo: AFP

By Wam

Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize-winning author of the novel 'Beloved' and a seminal voice in African-American literature, has died at the age of 88.

Paul Bogaards, Morrison's publicist, confirmed the information, saying the author died on Monday night, German news agency DPA reported on Tuesday. She was at a medical centre in New York.

Morrison received a series of honours during her lifetime, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Born in Ohio during the Great Depression, with the name Chloe Wofford, Morrison was an academic and an editor before she wrote her first novel in 1970, The Bluest Eye, a coming of age story of a black girl.

In 1977, she published the epic Song of Solomon, which looked at black identity in the US.

Beloved, published in 1987, became perhaps her best-known work, telling the story, based on real events, of a former US slave during and after the Civil War. It was eventually turned into a film with Oprah Winfrey.

She became the first black woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.

"Toni Morrison's prose brings us that kind of moral and emotional intensity that few writers ever attempt," then-president Barack Obama said as he awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.

Her work often mixed elements of mysticism, magic, spirituality and hard living and difficult choices, leading to complex narratives of joy and tragedy.

Morrison's early prose was written as she balanced a busy work schedule and a home life, including raising her two children.

She is credited with influencing generations of writers, especially black authors in the US, with her work helping to break stereotypes and introduce a more nuanced African American experience, said the DPA report.