Daniel (Dan) Sleigh was born on the farm Geelbeks- fontein on the West Coast on 3 November, 1938. He matriculated at Vredenburg High School and then joined the South African Navy. From 1960 until 1962 he studied at Paarl Training College to become a Physical Education teacher. This was followed by a teaching career in Namibia and Cape Town. In 1969 he obtained his B.A. degree (History and English Literature) at UNISA. He then obtained an M.A. degree (cum laude), followed by a doctorate in History from the University of Stellenbosch in 1987. Until retirement, in 1996, Sleigh worked at the Western Cape Department of Education.
He made his literary debut in 1974 with the volume of poetry entitled Duif oor water. This was followed by historical works for young people, e.g. Die buiteposte and Tussen twee vlae.
1971 C. Louis Leipoldt Prize - Duif oor water
2007 Medal from the Academy for Science and Arts
2007 RAU Prize for Creativity and Art – for the promotion of History
1971 Duif oor water
1972 Die nege-maande-mars
1973 ’n Man om te hardloop
1977 Sersant Barodien, Kaapse Korps
1978 ’n Kanon vir Barbier
1979 Vryburger Tas
2011 Wals met Matilda
PROSE: YOUTH STORIES
1974 Tussen twee vlae
1975 Onder die Bittervaan
1976 Anselm en die jut
1978 Jan Kompanjie: die wêreld van die Verenigde Oos-Indiese Kompanjie
1979 Ruiters teen die Ryk
1988 The Huguenots (met A.J. Grant en Ronald Mayo)
1993 Die buiteposte
1996 The Forts of the Liesbeeck Frontier, Castle Military Museum
1999 They Rode Against an Empire, Castle Military Museum
Excerpts from reviews
“This novel was offered to me for review with an apologetic note advising me to abandon it at the first onset of boredom. Seven hundred and fifty dense pages later I can report that it is riveting throughout. Based on the first 50 years of Dutch settlement in South Africa, it is a monumental, vividly imagined epic that, in spite of its huge cast and range, maintains its balance and direction.” John de Falbe, The Spectator (2004)
“I can only beg you: make time for this brisk, dense and entirely fascinating book. Its scale is exhilarating, not exhausting. Dan Sleigh has made a whole history dance and has defied time to bring back, like some sorcerer, the beat and blood of lives that would otherwise be only traces in the documents of an old colony.” Michael Pye, The Scotsman (2004)
The thorough historical research done for Eilande, the authenticity and integrity of the historical recreation impressed the judging panel. In the novel Sleigh gives evidence of a thorough familiarity with current history theories, including the view that the portrayal of history is a subjective process that is not so far from being a fictional narrative itself and that the “little histories” of marginalised people also deserve some attention. One of the features of this all-embracing novel is the way in which stress is maintained and a shapeless piece of history is firmly projected. (Commendatio 2004)
This novel has been described as “monumental”, “big” and “impressive” by local and international critics. In 2001 Sleigh won the Sanlam/Insig/Tafelberg novel competition for Eilande and, later, the W.A. Hofmeyr, RAU and M-Net Prizes for creative work in Afrikaans.
Eilande was released in English in 2004, entitled Islands (translated by Andre P. Brink) and featured on the Seattle Times list of the ten best books of 2005. It was also described as one of the top ten debut novels in 2005 by Booklist, an American library service publication. The Dutch translation, Stemmen uit zee, obtained the 98th position on the top-seller list of Dutch booksellers.