Human & Rousseau

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Marlene van Niekerk

Biographical info

Marlene van Niekerk was born on 10 November 1954 on the farm Tygerhoek near Caledon. She attended school in Riviersonderend and Stellenbosch, where she matriculated at Bloemhof High School. She studied philosophy, languages and literature at the universities of Stellenbosch, Amsterdam and Witwatersrand.

Her debut poetry volume, Sprokkelster, was published in 1977. She was awarded both the Eugène Marais Prize and the Ingrid Jonker Prize for this. Her first novel, Triomf, was published in 1995 and was awarded, amongst others, the Noma Prize for the best publication from Africa. Ten years later Agaat was published. This novel won six awards, amongst which the Hertzog Prize for prose (2004). The English translation of Agaat was also awarded the Sunday Times Literary Award.

In 2007/2008 she held the UNESCO Africa Chair in Utrecht. She became the first South African author to be listed for the Man Booker International Prize.

Marlene is currently a Professor of Afrikaans and Dutch literature and creative writing at the University of Stellenbosch.

Did you know?

· After her studies in 1979, Marlene worked for a year as an apprentice director in theatres in Stuttgart and Mainz.
· In 2008, the English translation of Agaat was one of six shortlisted books for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Michiel Heyns did the translation, which is titled The Way of the Women. On 13 December 2008 it appeared on the Pick of the Paperback list of the British newspaper The Telegraph. It was described as “a beautifully written novel”.
· The film version of Triomf won Best South African Picture Award at the Durban Film Festival in 2011.
· She was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga in 2011 for her outstanding contribution to literary arts and culture.

Author bookshelf

Kaar, Human & Rousseau (2013)
Die sneeuslaper
, Human & Rousseau (2010)
Memorandum: A Story of Paintings, Human & Rousseau (2006)
Memorandum: ’n Verhaal met skilderye, Human & Rousseau (2006)
Agaat, Tafelberg (2004)
Triomf, Tafelberg (2004)


Hertzog Prize for Poetry (2014)
University of Johannesburg Prize for Best Creative Writing in Afrikaans (2010) – Die sneeuslaper
Helgaard Steyn Prize (2008) – Agaat
Afrikaans Onbeperk Award from the KKNK (2007)
Sunday Times Literary Award (2007) – For the English translation by Michiel Heyns of Agaat
CL Engelbrecht Prize for Literature (2007) – Agaat
Hertzog Prize for Prose (2007) – Agaat
University of Johannesburg Prize (2005) – Agaat
WA Hofmeyr Prize (2005) – Agaat
M-Net Prize (2005) – Agaat
M-Net Prize (1995) – Triomf
CNA Prize (1995) – Triomf
Noma Award for publishing in Africa (1995) – Triomf
Eugène Marais Prize (1977) – Sprokkelster
Ingrid Jonker Prize (1978) – Sprokkelster

List of titles

1977 Sprokkelster, Human & Rousseau
1983 Groenstaar, Human & Rousseau
2013 Kaar, Human & Rousseau

1992 Die vrou wat haar verkyker vergeet het, HAUM-Literêr
1995 Triomf, Queillerie
2004 Agaat, Tafelberg
2006 Memorandum (with paintings by Adriaan van Zyl), Human & Rousseau
2010 Die sneeuslaper, Human & Rousseau


Die vrou wat haar verkyker vergeet het (1992)

Triomf (1995)
English (1999), Dutch and French

Agaat (2004)
English (2007), Dutch

Memorandum (2006)
English, Dutch


“With superb historical timing, American readers have finally been provided with South Africa's only world-class tragicomic novel, the kind of book that stabs at your heart while it has you rolling on the floor. […] Triomf is mercilessly funny in a way that extends the writing's compassionate reach.” – Rob Nixon, The New York Times (2004)

The Way of the Women is an extraordinary book.” – Helen Elliott, The Sydney Morning Herald (2008)

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