W.A. de Klerk

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W.A. de Klerk (1917-1996) was an Afrikaans author and playwright.

Generally known as Bill de Klerk to his friends and intimates.


Born Willem Adriaan de Klerk in the Paarl, he was schooled at Grey College in Bloemfontein and at the University of Stellenbosch, where he completed a BA (1937) and an LLB (1939).

He started out his working life with a short stint of 5 years as an advocate in the Cape, before he spent 3 years as a freelance writer and announcer for the SABC and for the BBC in London.

In the early nineteen fifties he settled on the farm "Saffier" ("Saphire") near the Paarl and became a full-time writer-farmer. Here he would produce numerous and eclectic prose works - among them adventure stories, novels, children’s books and political-philosophical works on the Afrikaner, one of the best known of these being The Puritans in Africa: A Story of Afrikanerdom (1975).

A much loved man, Saffier also became a rallying point for Cape writers and other Afrikaner intellectuals.

His contribution to South African theatre.

As dramatist De Klerk picks up where J.F.W. Grosskopf left off with social realism, linking with Ibsen and O’Neill. While strong dramatic situations are depicted and he aims for powerful characterization (often focussed on the limitations of and challenges for man in society), the plays are at times spoiled by relatively heavy-handed and "stagey" dialogue and purple passages of pseudo-philosophical moralizing. However he was perhaps the pre-eminent "serious" dramatic writer of his generation, his works forming the cornerstone of the National Theatre Organisation (NTO) repertoire and the published plays became a core part of the mid-century dramatic canon in Afrikaans. For example, Nag het die Wind Gebring ("Night brought the Wind") was originally directed by Anna Neethling-Pohl for Volksteater, but then later used for the inaugural season of NTO, Hellersee was first done by K.A.T. in Cape Town, and then by NTO in 1959, while Die Jaar van die Vuuros, his most ambitious and profound – possibly best - play, was written as a commissioned work for the 1952 Van Riebeeck Tricentenary festivities. The play tentatively sought to question some of the tenets underlying the segregationists ideas being propagated by the newly elected Nationalist Party. Produced by NTO , it won De Klerk the Hertzog Prize for drama (a contentious award because he shared it with Gerhard J. Beukes). It was also a standard prescribed work for schools and literary courses for almost four decades (1950s-1980s).

Other full-length plays

His first play was Uit die goeie aarde (“From the good earth” - 1942), a play about student life, followed by a collection of three plays (Die Verterende Vuur [“The consuming fire”], Nag het die Wind Gebring [“Night brought the wind”] and Hellersee [which opened the Bloemfontein Civic Theatre in 1959], in Drie Dramas, 1947).

Thereafter came: Vlamme oor La Roche (“Flames over La Roche” – 1951), Die Jaar van die Vuuros (lit. “The year of the fire ox”, 1952), Die Twisappel (The bone [lit. “apple”] of contention”, 1955), Vermaak se kind (“Child of entertainment”, 1963), Wanneer see en branders dreun (“When sea and waves boom”, 1963).

After a long silence he published Die Markplein (“The marketplace”) in 1978, but by then his style of theatre had gone out of fashion and it was never seriously considered for performance.

Shorter works

He wrote nine published one-act plays, among which are some of his better works, including:

Pilatus (in Ses Eenbedrywe, 1946)

Die Volmaakte Huwelik, Die Jammer Hart and Ontvlugting (in Drie Vroue, 1947),

Die Reën Van Jou Liefde (in Uitgesoekte Eenbedrywe, 1948).

Waai, Westewind (in Vier Uitgesoekte Eenbedrywe, 1950).


He also wrote a number of radio dramas.


1952: Awarded the Hertzog Prize for Afrikaans Drama for his three plays As ons twee eers getroud is, Langs die steiltes en Salomé dans!. He controversially shared the prize with Gerhard J. Beukes, in a time when all expectations were that Uys Krige would be the winner.

1958: Awarded the Scheepersprys vir Jeuglektuur ("Scheepers Prize for Youth Literature" in Afrikaans).


Afrikaans Wikipedia[1]

Mona de Beer 1995. Who Did What in South Africa (Revised ed.). Johannesburg: Ad Donker.

J.C. Kannemeyer 1983. Geskiedenis van die Afrikaanse Literatuur II. Pretoria: Academica (Second edition, 1984[2]).

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