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Author Focus

Etienne van Heerden
Biographical info

Etienne Roché van Heerden was born in Johannesburg on December 3, 1954. He grew up in the Eastern Cape and Stellenbosch, where he matriculated at Paul Roos Gymnasium.

After spending a year in the South African Navy, he studied at the University of Stellenbosch where he completed a B.A. (LL.B) Law Degree and an Honors (cum laude) in Afrikaans and Dutch. He also completed a Masters’ Degree at the University of the Witwatersrand and a Ph.D. at Rhodes University. After his studies, he worked as an attorney, then in the advertising world and eventually also as a lecturer at the University of Zululand and Rhodes University.

Etienne’s debut youth novel, Matoli, was published in 1978. In 1981 he made his poetry debut (along with André le Roux du Toit, Peter Snyders and Daniel Hugo) with Brekfis met vier. He was awarded the Eugène Marais Prize in 1984 for his short story collection My Kubaan. His novel Toorberg, published in 1986, was awarded the Hertzog, CNA, ATKV and WA Hofmeyer prizes. After this, he became well-known for novels such as Die stoetmeester (1993), Die swye van Mario Salviati (2000), In stede van die liefde (2005) and 30 Nagte in Amsterdam (2008). Van Heerden received the Hertzog Prize for 30 Nagte in Amsterdam.

For the past two decades he has been involved in lecturing literature, literary theory and creative writing. He is currently a Professor at the University of Cape Town where he gives guidance in creative writing and is also a lecturer in literary theory, media studies and South African and Dutch literature.

Listen to a reading and an interview with Van Heerden in Iowa City, Iowa, 2003 (from the University of Iowa Digital Library).

Did you know?

· Amongst other things, Etienne is also an Honorary Fellow at the University of Iowa in the USA and a Writer in Residence at the Universities of Antwerp and Leiden.
· In the 1980s he was also one of the Afrikaans authors who had a meeting with exiled ANC members at the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
· Etienne is the founding editor of the cultural website LitNet.
· The Toorberg mountain is situated on the Van Heerden family’s farm Doornbosch, on the border between Graaff-Reinet and Murraysburg in the Eastern Cape.
· He has been blind in his right eye since birth because of a congenital cataract.
· Leap Year, the English translation of Etienne’s novel Die stoetmeester, was nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award.

Author bookshelf

Klimtol (2013)
Haai Karoo
30 nagte in Amsterdam (2008)
Die stoetmeester (2008)
Asbesmiddag (2007)
In stede van die liefde (2005)
Toorberg (2003)


W.A. Hofmeyr Prize for best literary work in Afrikaans (2014) – Klimtol
ATKV Prose Prize (2005) – In stede van die liefde
ATKV Prose Prize (1994) – Die stoetmeester
ATKV Prose Prize (1989) – Liegfabriek
ATKV Prose Prize (1987) – Toorberg

CNA Prize (1989) – Liegfabriek
CNA Prize (1986) – Toorberg

Eugène Marais Prize (1984) – My Kubaan

Hertzog Prize for Prose (2010) – 30 Nagte in Amsterdam
Hertzog Prize for Prose (1989) – Toorberg

M-Net Prize for the Best Original Novel in Afrikaans (2009) – 30 Nagte in Amsterdam
M-Net Prize for Prize (2008) – Asbesmiddag
M-Net Prize for Prize (2001) – Die swye van Mario Salviati

Rapport Prize for Prose (1992) – Casspirs en campari’s

UJ Prize for the Best Creative Writing in Afrikaans (2009) –  30 Nagte in Amsterdam

WA Hofmeyr Prize (2009) – 30 Nagte in Amsterdam
WA Hofmeyr Prize (2006) – In stede van die liefde
WA Hofmeyr Prize (2001) – Die swye van Mario Salviati
WA Hofmeyr Prize (1987) – Toorberg 

List of titles

Prose: novels
1978 Matoli, Perskor-Uitgewery
1984 Om te awol: ’n roman, Tafelberg
1986 Toorberg, Tafelberg.
1991 Casspirs en campari’s: ’n historiese entertainment, Tafelberg
1993 Die stoetmeester, Tafelberg
1996 Kikoejoe, Tafelberg
2000 Die swye van Mario Salviati: ’n roman, Tafelberg
2005 In stede van die liefde, Tafelberg
2007 Asbesmiddag, Tafelberg
2008 30 nagte in Amsterdam, Tafelberg
2013 Klimtol, Tafelberg

Prose: short stories
1983 My Kubaan, Tafelberg
1988 Liegfabriek, Tafelberg
2012 Haai Karoo, Tafelberg

1981 Obiter dictum, Perskor
1981 Brekfis met vier (with André le Roux du Toit, Daniel Hugo, Peter Snyders), Skoppensboer
1987 Die laaste kreef, Tafelberg

1989 Miskien sal ek die wingerd prys: ryme en gedigte oor drank (saam met Daniel Hugo), Tafelberg
1999 Die rooi roman: interaktiewe roman (editor), Human & Rousseau
1999 Die mooiste liefde is verby (compiler), Tafelberg
2001 Briewe deur die lug: LitNet / Taalsekretariaat-skrywersberaad 2000, Tafelberg
2003 Die omstrede God, African Sun Media

2004 Die stilte na die boek: kitsessays, Tafelberg

1998 Lied van die boeings: ’n kabaret, Tafelberg

Literary theory
1997 Postmodernisme en prosa: vertelstrategieë in vyf verhale van Abraham H. de Vries, Human & Rousseau


Toorberg (1986)
English (Ancestral Voices, 1989), Dutch (De betoverde berg, 1991), French, German, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish


Liegfabriek (1988)
English (Mad dog and other stories, 1992), Hebrew and Dutch (De witte aap, 1992)


Casspirs en campari’s (1991)
English (Casspirs and Camparis) and Dutch


Die stoetmeester (1993)
English (Leap Year, 1997) and Dutch


Kikoejoe (1996)
English (Kikuyu, 1998) and Dutch


Die swye van Mario Salviati (2000)
English (The Long Silence of Mario Salviati), Dutch (Het zwijgen van Mario Salviati), German (Das Lange Schweigen), French, Greek and Russian


In stede van die liefde (2005)
Dutch (In de plaats van liefde, 2006)


30 nagte in Amsterdam (2009)
English (30 Nights in Amsterdam). Translated by Michiel Heyns (2011, Penguin)



“With his latest novel, translated from Afrikaans, van Heerden has lived up to his reputation as the South African Marquez. ... This is a wondrous tale, weaving magic realism and history, in which van Heerden captures the stark beauty of the Karoo and its people.” – On The Long Silence of Mario Salviati, The Times, London, UK

“Dazzling storytelling magically weaves the fantastical with the everyday and lends a compelling power to the author’s meditations on history, art and life.” Ranti Williams on The Long Silence of Mario Salviati, The Guardian, London, UK (2003)

“It reminds one of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garcia Marquez: The history of a country and a nation told in the form of a family chronicle - realistic but visionary, fantastic, mythical.” – JA Dautzenberg on Ancestral Voices, De Volkskrant, Netherlands

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