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Marlene van Niekerk

Marlene van Niekerk’s novel tells the life-story of a dying woman and her complex relationship with the domestic worker / foster child / care-taker. But it is, in fact, also the history of the Afrikaner’s loss of power.
In 2008 history was made in respect of the Helgaard Steyn Award for Literature, as the prize and prize money (of R150 000) were shared, for the first time, by two authors. Both the works received multiple South African prizes and international acclaim since their release in 2004.

“Agaat is ’n belangrike bydrae tot en grensverskuiwing binne die Afrikaanse prosa. Veral om die deeglike ontginning van die plaasroman, boonop deur ‘n vrou.” Joan Hambidge, Volksblad (2004)

Michiel Heyns translated the novel into English, under the title The Way of the Women. In 2008 it was on the short-list of six books nominated for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and featured on the short-list of “Pick of the Paperbacks” of the British Newspaper, The Telegraph. It’s been described as a beautifully written novel and has also been translated into Dutch.

Awards for Agaat: C.L. Engelbrecht Prize for Literature (2007); Hertzog Prize for Prose (2007); M-Net Prize, W.A. Hofmeyr Prize and University of Johannesburg Prize (2005).

Marlene van Niekerk was born on the farm Tygerhoek near Caledon on 10 November, 1954. She attended school at Riviersonderend and Stellenbosch, where she matriculated at Bloemhof High School. She studied philosophy, languages and literature at the universities of Stellenbosch, Amsterdam and the Witwatersrand.

Her debut volume of poetry, Sprokkelster, was published in 1977 and was awarded both the Eugène Marais Prize and the Ingrid Jonker Prize. Her first novel, Triomf, was published in 1995 and was awarded, amongst others, the Noma Prize for the best publication from Africa. Ten years later Agaat was published and it won six awards, inter alia the Hertzog Prize for Prose (2004). The English translation of Agaat received the Sunday Times Literary Award.

Van Niekerk is currently a professor in Creative Writing at the University of Stellenbosch.

Other awards

1977 Eugène Marais-prys – Sprokkelster

1978 Ingrid Jonker-prys – Sprokkelster

1995 For Triomf: the Noma Prize for publications in Africa; the CNA Prize and M-Net Prize

2007 Sunday Times Literary Award – for the English translation (by Michiel Heyns) of Agaat

2007 Afrikaans Onbeperk Award of the KKNK – for her innovative thinking 

2010 University of Johannesburg Prize for the Best Creative Writing in Afrikaans – Die sneeuslaper

2014 Hertzog Prize for Poetry



1977 Sprokkelster

1983 Groenstaar

2013 Kaar


1992 Die vrou wat haar verkyker vergeet het

1995 Triomf

2004 Agaat

2006 Memorandum (with painting by Adriaan van Zyl)

2010 Die sneeuslaper


Die vrou wat haar verkyker vergeet het (1992) – Dutch: De vrouw die haar verrekijker had vergeten

Triomf (1995) – English (1999), Dutch and French

Memorandum (2006) – English and Dutch