Karel Schoeman

The first receiver of the Helgaard Steyn Award for Afrikaans Literature, in 1988, was Karel Schoeman, for the novel ’n Ander Land.

Karel Schoeman was born in Trompsburg in the Free State on 26 October, 1939 and matriculated at Paarl Boys’ High School in 1956. Here his first work in English was published in the school’s annual.

In 1959 he obtained a B.A. degree in Languages from the University of the Free State. In 1961 he joined the Franciscan Order in Ireland as novice for the priesthood, but later returned to Bloemfontein to obtain a Higher Diploma in Library Studies.

Before finally returning to South Africa in 1983 he worked, inter alia, as a librarian in an Amsterdam library and a nurse in Glasgow, Scotland. From 1983 until his retirement in 1998 he worked as an archivist at the South African National Library in Cape Town. At present he lives in his home-town, Trompsburg.

Schoeman is not just known as a novelist, but also as a historicist and translator. He has won the Hertzog Prize for Prose three times, the Recht Malan Prize for Non- fiction four times, as well as various other awards.

The South African Academy for Science and Art presented him with the Stals Award for Cultural History in 1997.

Schoeman received the State President’s Award for Service Excellence in 1999, as well as two honorary doctorates from the University of Cape Town (2000) and the University of the Free State (2004).

To date, the following works by Schoeman have been published: 19 prose works and 47 non-fiction (bibli- ographies, history publications, autobiographies and accounts of travels). His autobiography, released in 2002, is titled Die laaste Afrikaanse boek.


Apart from ’n Ander Land other translations are:

Nadiegeliefdeland(1972)–inEnglish Promised Land (1978) and in French Retour au pays bien-aimé (2006)
Olive Schreiner: ‘n lewe in Suid-Afrika (1989) – in English Olive Schreiner: A Woman in South Africa (1991)
Afskeidenvertrek(1990)–inEnglishTakeLeaveand Go (1992) and in French La Saison des Adieux (2004)
Hierdielewe(1993)–inEnglishThisLife(2005) and in French Cette Vie (2009)

The Helgaard Steyn Award was accepted on Schoe- man’s behalf by his publisher, Mr. Koos Human of Human & Rousseau Publishers at Potchefstroom. In his speech, as read by Mr. Human, the author claimed that the award was valued beyond just its pure literary reasons, because it has been initiated and named after a Free Stater whose family played a significant role in the development of the Free State.

Schoeman mentioned in his speech that it is coinci- dental that the award is presented to an author who was born in the Free State, one who cherishes the Free State, and for a book with a Free State theme that lends special symbolic value to the Free State landscape.

He further emphasised how much one should guard against sectionalism and chauvinism because of the dangers they hold. It is also important to be aware of one’s origin and the influences that helped shape one. To the Free Stater, in general, the most important of these influences are, no doubt, the province where he was born and those empty landscapes filled with promise, symbols of death. (3 September 1988)

’n Ander Land has received three other prizes: the Old Mutual Prize (1984), The W.A. Hofmeyr Prize (1985) and the Hertzog Prize for Prose (1986).

The English translation of this work, Another Country; was released in 1991; the Dutch translation, Een Ander Land; , in 1992; and in German, as In einem fremden Landthe year after. The French translation, En étrange pays was released in 2007.