N.P. van Wyk Louw

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Nicolaas Petrus van Wyk Louw (1906-1970), known as N.P. van Wyk Louw, was an Afrikaans-language poet, playwright, lecturer and cultural theorist.

He was the older brother of poet and major critic W.E.G. Louw.


Born Nicolaas Petrus van Wyk Louw in Sutherland, Cape Province, on 11 June 1906, he was the second of four brothers. Apart from being an author, poet and playwright, he was a scholar and a university lecturer for most of his life and he died in Johannesburg on 18 June 1970. He was first married to Joan Wessels and later to actress and theatre director Truida Louw.


The son of a lawyer, he spent his early youth in Sutherland until in 1920 the family moved to Cape Town, where he completed his schooling at SACS (South African College Schools) [1].


Earned a Master's Degree in German at the University of Cape Town and received an honorary degree from the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands, in 1948.


After completing his post-graduate studies he taught at the University of Cape Town and was a professor of Afrikaans at the University of Amsterdam from 1949-1958. He finished his academic career at the University of the Witwatersrand as head of the Dutch/Afrikaans Department. A member of the so-called "Dertigers" movement ("People of the thirties"), he published some of the most influential poetry in Afrikaans, as well as a number of plays and works on literary theory and criticism.

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

In the early years he did some acting, for instance acting in a performance of J.F.W. Grosskopf's As die tuig skawe (1927).

He did a number of translations, including: Sacha Guitry's Huis te Koop and Maurice Maeterlinck's Die Indringer (with his brother) in 1935.

His career as dramatist began when he was commissioned to write Die Dieper Reg for Volksteater in Pretoria. He later also wrote a number of plays for radio and stage, including Die Held, Dias, Germanicus (perf by NTO, 1957, pub. 195*), Asterion, a libretto for a symphonic opera for radio (1965), Die Pluimsaad waai vêr (Perf by PACT?*:1966, Pub:1972?).

Louw played an important role as mentor to new writers (for instance he influenced the award-winning playwright, scriptwriter and TV personality P.G. du Plessis for example) and his defense of liberalism in South Africa is reflected in his many writings on Afrikaners, Afrikaner consciousness, language, literature and theatre, and are important documents in a theory of Afrikaans cultural thinking in the period 1935-1966. he also wrote In 1966 the production of Die Pluimsaad waai vêr brought him into direct conflict with H.F. Verwoerd regarding the freedom of the artist. He was married to theatre director Truida Louw.

Truida Louw directed his Die Pluimsaad waai vêr at the Brooke Theatre in 1966 for PACT. His Germanicus starring Marius Weyers formed part of the opening season of the Pretoria State Theatre in 1981. *** (Tucker, 1997)

His published dramas include: Dias (1951); Germanicus (1956); Koning-Eenoog of nie vir geleerdes (1960); Dagboek van ‘n Soldaat (1961); Lewenslyn (1962); Die Held (1962); Kruger Breek die Pad Oop (1964); Die Pluimsaad Waai Ver (1966), Berei in die Woestyn (1968), Blomme in die Winter a radio drama in 1974, Lewenslyn a radio drama, Die Val van 'n Regverdige Man as radio drama.

His epic poem, Raka, has also been the text for numerous dramatised performances in various media over the years.

In 2021 the first complete collection of all his dramatic writings was collated and published by Protea Boekhuis, edited by Deborah Steinmair and Kristèl de Weerd.

[TH, JH]

Awards, etc

He was awarded the Hertzog Prize five times:

Hertzog Prize for Afrikaans drama in 1960 (Germanicus).

Hertzog Prize for Afrikaans poetry (1937, 1940 and 1965).

Hertzog Prize for Afrikaans prose (1958).





Ludwig Wilhelm Berthold Binge 1969. Ontwikkeling van die Afrikaanse toneel (1832-1950). Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik.

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

J.C. Kannemeyer 1988. Die Afrikaanse Literatuur 1652-1987. Pretoria: Human en Rousseau.

Ampie Muller and Beverley Roos-Muller (eds). 2020. Vuur In Sy Vingers – Die Verreikende Invloed Van NP Van Wyk Louw, Hemel en See Boeke.

Luc Renders. 2007. "Die dramatiese werk van NP van Wyk Louw: met volk-wees as inspirasie 2002", LitNet 2007-06-13[3]

Deborah Steinmair en Kristèl de Weerd. 2021. Versamelde dramas – NP Van Wyk Louw. Pretoria: Protea Boekhuis

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