D.J. Opperman

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Diederik (or Dirk) Johannes Opperman, commonly referred to as D.J. Opperman, (1914-1985) was a hugely influential Afrikaans poet, dramatist, critic and university lecturer.

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 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. (Tucker)

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



He was born on 29 September 1914 in Dundee in Natal, where he grew up. He went to school in the towns of Estcourt and Vryheid.


Studied at the University of Natal and graduated with an M.A. Degree.


Directly after graduating from university Opperman first 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. In 1960 he was appointed professor of Afrikaans at the University of Stellenbosch, a position he filled until his retirement in 1975. During this period he also served on the editorial board of the publication Standpunte ("Points of View"). Dirk Opperman died in Stellenbosch in 1985.

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

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

His plays were however seldom really effective on stage and certainly the weakest of his literary works, despite the perrenial prescription of Periandros van Korinthe as a drama text for schools and universities. Nevertheless, he was twice awarded the Hertzog Prize for Drama. (Tucker)

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).

SA Academy of Arts and Science: Honorary Member (1983).

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

WA 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]

Go to ESAT Bibliography

Return to

Return to ESAT Personalities O

Return to South African Theatre Personalities

Return to The ESAT Entries

Return to Main Page