Nobel laureate for literature Nadine Gordimer, noted for her work about the inhumanity of apartheid, has become one of just a few South Africans to receive France's highest award, the Legion of Honor.
Gordimer was awarded the decorative medal on Saturday at a ceremony at the Pretoria home of Denis Pietton, the French ambassador to South Africa.
Pietton said France wanted to pay homage to a "great writer".
"By making you an Officer of the Legion of Honor, we also wish to pay tribute to a symbolic figure of the fight against apartheid, that absurd and terrible system that sought, unrealistically to separate races," he said.
Gordimer, 83, who is also a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme, was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1991. Several of her novels were once banned in South Africa.
The author said she was "overwhelmed" by the honour from France.
She expressed her love for French literature and writing and spoke about the inspiration she drew from authors such as Marcel Proust and Jean-Paul Sartre.
"I accept with great gratitude and humility," she said.
Napoleon created the legion in 1802 to honour exceptional service to France, including artistic and intellectual contributions.
Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former education minister Kader Asmal, singer Miriam Makeba and writer Andre Brink are among the handful of South Africans who have also received the prestigious award.
"As South Africans we can be proud of Nadine," said acclaimed South African writer Mongane Wally Serote at the ceremony. "We are very happy that her talent as a writer kept South Africa on the world map."
Born in Springs, east of Johannesburg, Gordimer began to write at the age of nine.
Her first short story was published in a magazine when she was 15.
Regarded as the doyenne of South African literature, she was an ardent opponent of apartheid and spoke out against racial segregation and censorship in the country.
Gordimer is known for books such as her first novel The Lying Days , July's People and The Conservationist .
Her latest book Get a Life was published last year and Beethoven was One Sixteenth Black , a collection of stories, will be published later this year. - Sapa-AP