Human & Rousseau

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DJ Opperman

Biographical info

Diederik Johannes (D.J.) Opperman was born on a farm near Dundee in KwaZulu-Natal on September 29, 1914. He went to school in Estcourt and Vryheid. He obtained an MA Degree from the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg in 1935 and his Doctorate from the University of Cape Town in 1953. He was a teacher in Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg and a journalist with Die Huisgenoot in Cape Town from 1946 to 1948. He lectured at the University of Cape Town for 10 years. From 1960 to 1979 Opperman was professor in Afrikaans literature at the University of Stellenbosch. In this time he ran the famous Literary Laboratory. D.J. Opperman suffered a stroke in 1981 and died in Stellenbosch on September 22, 1985.

D.J. Opperman, one of the most famous Afrikaans poets, published his first book of poetry, Heilige beeste, in 1945 and received the Hertzog Prize for poetry in 1947. He received the Hertzog Prize on three more occasions: Periandros van Korinthe (for drama, 1956), Voëlvry (for drama, 1969) and Komas uit ’n bamboesstok (for poetry, 1980). He also received the CNA, WA Hofmeyr and Louis Luyt prizes for Komas uit ’n bamboesstok. Opperman was also known as compiler of anthologies, the most famous of which was Groot Verseboek (the first one appeared in 1956) and Kleuterverseboek. In 2000 the book Sonklong oor Afrika, on which he was working at the time of his death, was published.

Did you know?  

  • In 1976 he spent seven months in a comatose condition due to cirrhosis of the liver. He made an extraordinary recovery. The autobiographical book of poetry, Komas uit ’n bamboesstok (1979), is about this period.
  • The Literary Laboratory was a workshop for emerging poets and writers in Afrikaans. Some of the eminent poets, writers and literary critics who attended this laboratory were Lina Spies, Daniel Hugo, Erika Murray-Theron, Joan Hambidge, Fanie Olivier, Marlene van Niekerk, Etienne Britz and Louise Viljoen.
  • His daughter, Trienke Laurie, is also a poet. She received the Ingrid Jonker Prize for her first book of poetry, Skietspoel, in 1997.
  • He wrote three verse dramas: Periandros van Korinthe (1955), Vergelegen (1956) and Voëlvry (1968).
  • He was closely involved with the magazine Standpunte and was also a prominent selector of manuscripts for Nasionale Pers, Human & Rousseau and Tafelberg.

Author bookshelf

Kleuterverseboek, Tafelberg (2010)
Periandros van Korinthe
, Tafelberg (2001)
Joernaal van Jorik
, Tafelberg (2001)
Sonklong oor Afrika
, Tafelberg (2000)


Hertzog Prize for Poetry (1947) – Heilige beeste
WA Hofmeyr Prize (1954) – Periandros van Korinthe
WA Hofmeyr Prize (1956) – Blom en baaierd
Hertzog Prize for Drama (1956) – Periandros van Korinthe
CNA Prize (1964) – Dolosse
WA Hofmeyr Prize (1966) – Dolosse
Honorary Doctorate from University of Natal (1968)
Hertzog Prize for Drama (1969) – Voëlvry
Honorary Doctorate from University of Stellenbosch (1976)
Hertzog Prize for Poetry (1980) – Komas uit ’n bamboesstok
CNA Prize (1980) – Komas uit ’n bamboesstok
WA Hofmeyr Prize (1980) – Komas uit ’n bamboesstok
Louis Luyt Prize (1980) – Komas uit ’n bamboesstok
Honorary Doctorate from University of Cape Town (1980)
Honorary Doctorate from University of Pretoria (1982)
Gustav Preller Prize for Literary Criticism (1985)

List of titles

1945 Heilige beeste, Nasionale Pers
1947 Negester oor Ninevé, Nasionale Pers
1949 Joernaal van Jorik, Nasionale Pers
1950 Engel uit die klip, Nasionale Boekhandel
1956 Blom en baaierd, Nasionale Boekhandel
1963 Dolosse, Nasionale Boekhandel
1964 Kuns-mis, Human & Rousseau
1970 Edms. Bpk, Human & Rousseau
1979 Komas uit ’n bamboesstok, Human & Rousseau
1987 Versamelde poësie, Tafelberg
2000 Sonklong oor Afrika, Tafelberg

Compiler and Anthologies
1946 Stiebeuel; ’n bloemlesing (with F.J. le Roux), Nasionale Pers
1951 Junior verseboek, Nasionale Boekhandel.
1955 Senior verseboek, Nasionale Boekhandel
1956 Groot Verseboek, Tafelberg
1958 Verseboek vir standerd VI (with J.A. Heyl), Nasionale Boekhandel
1959 Klankies vir kleintjies (with H.J. van Zyl), Nasionale Boekhandel
1959 Klein verseboek, Nasionale Boekhandel
1959 Wiggelstok, Nasionale Boekhandel.
1960 Afrikaanse digkuns (with H.J. van Zyl), Via Afrika.
1961 My tweede verseboek: Standerd II (with C.B. Linder), Nasionale Boekhandel
1961 My derde verseboek: Standerd III (with C.B. Linder), Nasionale Boekhandel
1961 My vierde verseboek: Standerd IV (with C.B. Linder), Nasionale Boekhandel
1964 My eerste verseboek: Standerd I (with C.B. Linder), Nasionale Boekhandel
1965 Stiebeuel 2; ’n bloemlesing (with F.J. le Roux), Nasionale Boekhandel
1966 Dubbelloop. Afrikaanse en Nederlandse gedigte (with C.J.M. Nienaber), Nasionale Boekhandel
1966 Kleuterverseboek, Nasionale Boekhandel
1968 Spirit of the vine: Republic of South Africa, Human & Rousseau
1984 My Afrikaanse verseboek: ’n ruim keuse vir meertalige leerlinge (with M.A. Basson and E. Stumpf), Tafelberg
1985 Skakering (with G.H.J. Coetzee), Tafelberg.

1955 Periandros van Korinthe, Nasionale Boekhandel.
1956 Vergelegen, Nasionale Boekhandel
1968 Voëlvry, Human & Rousseau

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