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Marlene van Niekerk is a South African academic, novelist and poet who is best known internationally for her novels Triomf and Agaat. Her graphic and controversial descriptions of a poor Afrikaner family in Johannesburg in Triomf brought her to the forefront of a post-apartheid society still struggling to come to terms with all the changes in South Africa. This novel was made into an award-winning film, likewise called Triomf_(film), in 2008, directed by Michael Raeburn.

Marlene van Niekerk
Van Niekerk (2018)
Van Niekerk (2018)
Born (1954-11-10) 10 November 1954 (age 64)
Nationality South Africa
Notable awardsIngrid Jonker Prize
Noma Award for Publishing in Africa
Hertzog Prize (twice)
Order of Ikhamanga

She explains that the portraying the separation of the sexes in her work is the result of being "outside the main arena" as an Afrikaner lesbian.[1]



Marlene van Niekerk was born on 10 November 1954 on the farm Tygerhoek near Caledon in the Western Cape, South Africa. She attended school in Riviersonderend and Stellenbosch, where she matriculated from Hoërskool Bloemhof.

She studied languages and philosophy at Stellenbosch University and obtained an MA with the thesis: "Die Aard en Belang van die Literêre Vormgewing in 'Also sprach Zarathustra'" (The Nature and Significance of Literary Shaping in Also sprach Zarathustra) in 1978.

While at university, she wrote three plays for amateur theatre. In 1979 she moved to Germany to join theatres in Stuttgart and Mainz to study directing. From 1980 to 1985, she continued her study of philosophy in the Netherlands and obtained a Dutch doctorandus with a thesis on the works of Claude Lévi-Strauss and Paul Ricoeur: "Taal en Mythe: Een Structuralistische en Een Hermeneutische Benadering" (Language and Myth: A Structuralist and Hermeneutic Approach) from the University of Amsterdam.

Back in South Africa, she lectured in philosophy at the University of Zululand, and later at Unisa. During the 1990s, she was a lecturer in Afrikaans and Dutch at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Since 2000, Marlene van Niekerk is a professor in the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, Stellenbosch University, where she teaches creative writing.


  • Sprokkelster (poetry), 1977
  • Groenstaar (poetry), 1983
  • Die Vrou Wat Haar Verkyker Vergeet Het (short stories), 1992 (translated into Dutch)
  • Triomf (novel), 1994; translated into English as Triomf[2] by Leon de Kock, 2000 (also translated into Dutch and French)
  • Agaat (novel), 2004; translated into English as The Way of the Women by Michiel Heyns, 2007. Published in North America by Tin House Books (as Agaat), 2010 (also translated into Dutch)
  • Memorandum: 'n Verhaal met Skilderye (novel), 2006, with paintings by Adriaan van Zyl; translated into English as Memorandum: A Story with Pictures by Michiel Heyns, 2006 (also translated into Dutch)
  • Die Sneeuslaper: Verhale (short stories), 2010; translated into English as The Snow Sleeper by Marius Swart, 2019 (also translated into Dutch)
  • Kaar (poetry), 2013
  • Gesant van die Mispels: Gedigte by Skilderye van Adriaen Coorte ca. 1659-1707 (poetry), 2017 (with translations into Dutch by the author and Henda Strydom)
  • In die Stille Agterkamer: Gedigte by Skilderye van Jan Mankes 1889-1920 (poetry), 2017 (with translations into Dutch by the author and Henda Strydom)

Awards and RecognitionEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Fowler, JK. "PEN 2010: Toni Morrison and Marlene Van Niekerk in Conversation with K. Anthony Appiah". The Mantle. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  2. ^ "Little Brown Book Group about Triomf". Retrieved 4 September 2015.

External linksEdit