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Author Focus

Chris Barnard
Biographical info

Christian Johan (Chris) Barnard was born in Mataffin in the Nelspruit district on July 15 1939. He matriculated at Nelspruit High in 1957.

He studied at the University of Pretoria, attained a BA degree, majoring in Afrikaans-Nederlands and History of Art. He debuted in 1961, at the age of 22, with the novella, Bekende onrus, for which he received the CNA prize. In 1967 Chris started work as a journalist at Die Huisgenoot, and his column Chriskras was later published in three collections. His second novel, Mahala, was published in 1971, and is considered an Afrikaans classic.

As one of the most important Sestigers, he contributed greatly to the Afrikaans literature, mainly because of his versatility: he wrote novels, novellas, columns, youth novels, short stories, plays, radio dramas, essays, film scripts, television dramas. He received several literary awards including the much sought-after Hertzog Prize twice.

He died on 28 December 2015 from a heart attack in Pretoria. He was 76 years old.

Did you know?  

· Mahala originated from the short story “Bos” that was published in Duiwel-in-die-bos.
· Chris became one of the founding members of the Afrikaanse Skrywersgilde in 1975, and in 1987 he was selected as chairman of the Gilde.
· He married film maker Katinka Heyns in 1978, and they collaborated on several projects including Die storie van Klara Viljee and Paljas.
· In 2006 Chris received an ATKV Veertjie award  as writer of the best television programme for episode 13 of Amalia (André Scholtz was the director). Chris also wrote lyrics for Amalia II, and the actress Illse Roos later recorded this on the CD Die Blou Kafee.

Author bookshelf

Danda, Tafelberg (heruitgawe, 2012)
, Tafelberg (2006, reissued in the “Klassieke-reeks”)
Boendoe, Tafelberg (1999)
Paljas en Die storie van Klara Viljee, Tafelberg (1998)


CNA Prize (1961) – Bekende onrus
APB Prize for youth literature (1962) – Boela van die blouwater
CNA Prize (1968) – Duiwel-in-die-bos
SABC/BRT Prize for Radio Dramas (1970) – Die rebellie van Lafras Verwey
Hertzog Prize for prose (1973) – Mahala en Duiwel-in-die-bos
SABC Academy Prize for radio dramas (1973) – Die rebellie van Lafras Verwey
WA Hofmeyr Prize (1974) – Mahala
Idem Prize for radio dramas (1980) – Die rebellie van Lafras Verwey
Idem Prize for television dramas (1984) – Donkerhoek
FAK-Helpmekaar Prize for light fiction (1986) – So onder deur die maan: Chriskras 3
Idem Prize for radio dramas (1987) – Uitnodiging tot die dans
Scheepers Prize for youth literature (1987-89) – Voetpad na Vergelegen
Hertzog Prize for drama (1991) – For his complete drama oeuvre
WA Hofmeyr Prize (1992) – Moerland
Rapport Prize (1993) – Moerland
CNA Prize (1993) – Moerland
SA Akademie’s Medal of Honour for Afrikaans Radio Dramas (2008) – Blindemol

List of titles

1961 Bekende onrus (novella)
1961 Die houtbeeld (novella)
1962 Boela van die blouwater (youth novel)
1963 Man in die middel (novel)
1964 Dwaal (novella)
1965 Die swanesang van majoor Sommer (novella)
1968 Duiwel-in-die-bos (short stories)
1971 Mahala (novel)
1972 Chriskras (short stories and sketches)
1974 Danda (youth novel)
1976 Chriskras: ’n tweede keur (short stories and sketches)
1977 Danda op Oudeur (youth novel)
1985 So onder deur die maan: Chriskras 3 (short stories and sketches)
1987 Voetpad na Vergelegen (youth novel)
1988 Klopdisselboom – die beste van Chriskras (short stories and sketches)
1992 Moerland (novel)
1999 Boendoe (novel)
2008 Oulap se blou (short stories)

Plays and Radio Dramas
1964 Pa, maak vir my ’n vlieër, pa
1970 ’n Stasie in die niet
1971 Die rebellie van Lafras Verwey
1975 Iemand om voor nag te sê
1975 Op die pad na Acapulco
1977 ’n Man met vakansie
1977 Taraboemdery

Television and Film Scripts
1982 Piet-my-vrou & Nagspel
1998 Paljas & Die storie van Klara Viljee Compiler and editor
1975 Die Transvaalse Laeveld: kamee van ’n kontrei
1984 Bartho by geleentheid van sy sestigste verjaardag


Boela van die blouwater – Dutch translation by Dieuwke Behrens
Pa, maak vir my ’n vlieër, pa – Translated in English by the author
Die rebellie van Lafras Verwey was translated in Dutch, French, English, Italian, Czech
Mahala – German translation by G. van Schreven

Sources: Media24 newspapers, Litnet

In his own words

"To the best of his knowledge Chris Barnard was born on 15 July 1939 at Mataffin in the Nelspruit district. It may have been long ago, but it remains relevant to him. His father was a citrus farmer and his mother a dedicated gardener. Clearly the desire to plant things and to see them grow was inherited from both his parents.

At the age of 18 he decided to become a major author, perhaps a monumental error but the start of an endless adventure. Although his competency tests at school consistently indicated he had no talent for languages, he went to study Afrikaans, English and French at the University of Pretoria. He majored in Afrikaans and was the editor of a variety of student publications.

After obtaining his B.A. he became a journalist, arguably his second mistake, but the start of twenty years of invaluable experience. Experience of how life looks and of how one should not write. He worked for Huisgenoot and now defunct papers and magazines such as Die Vaderland, Dagbreek, Sondagnuus and Die Brandwag. For a while he was a publisher too.

He married in 1962. From this union three sons were born – Johan, Stephen and Tian – their father’s pride and joy. In 1978 he got married a second time, to Katinka Heyns. This marriage produced another son, Simon, of whom his father is equally proud, and a new career, that of scriptwriter and filmmaker. And added privilege is sharing a bath with his producer every evening. Chris and Katinka live near the Hartbeespoort Dam. Since 1994 he is also a part-time grower of oranges and macadamia nuts on the farm Thulani, 7 km from where he was born. To plant and observe the growth is still his first prize."

Books By This Author