D.J. Opperman

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D.J. Opperman (1914-1985) was an Afrikaans poet, dramatist, critic and university lecturer.

Also known colloquially as Dirk Opperman.


Born Diederik Johannes Opperman on 29 September 1914 in Dundee in Natal, where he grew up. He went to school in the towns of Estcourt and Vryheid and then studied at the University of Natal, where he obtained a BA degree and later an M.A. degree in literature.

Directly after graduating from university 'he initially taught at schools in Pietermaritzburg and Johannesburg. He later on became editor of the popular weekly Afrikaans-language general interest family magazine, Die Huisgenoot.

In 1949 he became a lecturer at the University of Cape Town and in 1960 he was appointed professor of Afrikaans at the University of Stellenbosch, a position he filled until his retirement in 1975.

He died in Stellenbosch in 1985.

His contribution to South African literature in general

A versatile and hugely influential figure in the Afrikaans literary establishment, his most formidable contribution to South African literature (besides his own resounding poetry), must be the comprehensive Groot Verseboek (“Great book of verse”) which first appeared in 1956, and became the definitive canonizing instrument in Afrikaans literature, a work he periodically updated.

He was editor of the journal Standpunte for many years, while his famous poetry workshop in the University of Stellenbosch’s Department of Afrikaans and Dutch was enormously influential, with numerous later poets, writers, critics and dramatists passing through his hands. Among these later dramatists were Pieter Fourie, Herman Pretorius, Marlene van Niekerk, Charles Fryer and others.

He was awarded the Hertzog Prize four times: twice for Afrikaans Drama (1956 & 1969) and twice for Afrikaans poetry (1947 & 1980).

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

Opperman wrote three full-length verse plays: Periandros van Korinthe (1954), Vergelegen (1956) and Voëlvry (1968).

His plays were seldom really effective on stage and certainly they constitute the weakest aspect of his literary work, despite the fact that he received a number of literary awards for the text and that Periandros van Korinthe was perennially prescribed as a drama text for schools and universities over many years.

Awards, etc

Hertzog Prize for Afrikaans Poetry: 1947 (Heilige Beeste) and 1980 (Komas uit 'n bamboesstok).

Hertzog Prize for Afrikaans Drama: 1956 (Periandros van Korinthe) and 1969 (Voëlvry).

Gustav Preller Prize for Literature and Literary Criticism (1985).

Honorary Member of the Suid-Afrikaanse Aklademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns ("SA Academy of Arts and Science") (1983).

CNA Award for: Dolosse (1964) and Komas uit 'n bamboesstok (1980).

W.A. Hofmeyr Prize for: Periandros van Korinthe (1954), Blom en Baaierd (1956), Dolosse (1966) and Komas uit 'n bamboesstok (1980).

Louis Luyt Prize for : Komas uit 'n bamboesstok (1980).

Honorary Doctorates from: University of Natal (1968), University of Stellenbosch (1976), University of Cape Town (1980) and University of Pretoria (1982).


Tucker, 1997

Wikipedia [1]

Afrikaans Wikipedia [2]

Stellenbosch Writers website [3]

LitNet [4]

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