P.G. du Plessis

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P.G. du Plessis (1934-2017) was a multi-talented academic, author and journalist.


Born Pieter Georg du Plessis on 14 July 1934 in Boshof in the Free State. He matriculated at the Hoër Volkskool in Heidelberg. Studied at the Universities of Pretoria and the Witwatersrand. In 1955 he obtained a BA degree, majoring in Afrikaans-Nederlands and History at the University of Pretoria. Onderwysdiploma- 1957 - (Pretoriase Onderwyskollege), BA Honneurs - 1960- (Universiteit van die Witwatersrand) and a Phd -1966 - (Universiteit van die Witwatersrand)

Started as clerk at the Transvaal Provincial Administration, then became a teacher at the Hoërskool Fakkel in Johannesburg, and in 1959 a lecturer at the Johannesburgse Onderwyskollege. In 1960 he was appointed a lecturer in Afrikaans en Nederlands at the University of the Witwatersrand, working with N.P. van Wyk Louw. While there he completed a doctorate in Afrikaans literature under Louw's guidance entitled Die verwysing in die literatuur ("The reference in literature"), and was promoted to senior lecturer in 1968.

In 1970 he joined Prof P.J. Nienaber at the newly founded Human Sciences Research Council, to become the first Director of the Institute for Languages, Literature and Arts. He and Nienaber established four Documentation Centres in the Institute - one each for South African Art, Afrikaans Literature, Music and Theatre. The National Documentation Centre for the Performing Arts was headed by P.P.B. Breytenbach, the former Director of NTO and of PACT and another mentor for Du Plessis. Hereafter he turned to journalism (editor of the Pretoria daily newspaper Oggendblad), film-production (he founded the production company Sommatel) and farming on his farm Semoer in the Western Transvaal.

Besides his work as critic and teacher, he compiled four collections of essays and stories over the years, Halfeeu (1966 ) and Hoogtepunte (1967) - articles and stories that had appeared in Die Huisgenoot over the course of its first 50 years; Spies op sy stukke (the stories of Jan Spies, 1990); and Ligvoets (with Marga Stoffer, 1994 )

He began his creative writing career with a few published poems and stories published in journals. Of the latter he later only considered Pat O’Faggerty se verhaal (appearing on 16 January, 1959 in Die Huisgenoot) as worthwhile. Then in 1969 - inspired by his mentor, N.P. van Wyk Louw, he turned to theatre and produced his first play, Die Nag van Legio, soon followed by five more major works, thus establishing himself as the most commanding playwright of his generation.

In the 1980s he became a much beloved TV personality, famous for his storytelling ability in programmes such as Spies en Plessie and Maak 'n Las, and his talent as interviewer of notable personalities with P.G. Gesels Met.

However his most important impact was as a multi-talented writer of numerous literary and popular works, for a range of media. Towards the end of his life, much was made of Fees van die Ongenooides , his unforgettable TV series on the Anglo-Boer War, and more significantly the gripping novel of the same name published shortly after - rated by some as one of the most important in Afrikaans - while for other critics the handful of plays had exerted an equal, if not greater, influence on South African literature.

He passed away on 7 June 2017 aged 82.

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

As academic and administrator

Besides his teaching at the University of the Witwatersrand and his administrative role as director of the Institute for Languages, Literature and Arts, he also wrote a number of articles and reviews and was for a time the editor of the Afrikaans academic journal Standpunte.

As writer

P.G. du Plessis wrote numerous poems, plays, short stories, novels, film and TV scripts over the years, many of them innovative and influential.

Stage plays

Started his playwriting career with the profound Die Nag van Legio (Tafelberg, 1969). Next came the immensely popular Mattewis en Meraai (1970, a dramatisation of a series of stories by Mikro), followed by the influential, controversial and hugely successful Siener in die Suburbs (Tafelberg, 1971), the futurist fantasy Plaston: DNS-Kind (Tafelberg, 1973), the roaringly successful farce 'n Seder Val in Waterkloof (performed 1975, published by Tafelberg, 1977) and the Anglo-Boer War play Vereeniging, Vereniging (Tafelberg, 1985). After this he turned to prose and television for a while, returning to the stage in 1999 with a play called Inkleurboek which was produced at the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees, then came another hiatus before a new series of plays were produced: Nagkantoor (2004), a tribute to the Afrikaans singer-composer Koos du Plessis; Bedevaart (2006), Sophia Mentz Beredder Haar Boedel (2008); Onderweg A stage version of Afrikaans singer, composer and playwright Jannie du Toit's autobiography (2011); and Pandjieswinkelstories (2014).

Short stories and Novels

He started as a prose writer with his renowned and beloved Koöperasiestories op Donderdag, serialized in Die Transvaler from 1980 onwards - short, tragi-comic and intensely human stories of life in a small town. (They were published as Koöperasie-stories op Donderdag by Perskor in 1980, later reworked for television, gaining an enormous following). Followed over the years by more story collections in a similar vein, including Hier sit die Manne (Perskor, 1883), Nog Koöperasiestories (1984), Het Olifante Elmboë? (1987), 1991 Koöperasie-stories: die omnibus (Perskor, 1991), Neklis (1993) and Tussen die Riewe (Benedic, 1997), Tweehonderd stories (Perskor, 1998), 120+ Sommerstories (LAPA, 2006) and Kortetjies en ’n lange (Tafelberg, 2009).

Du Plessis also wrote three very diverse novels: The first was Syferfonteine (Tafelberg, 1994), followed by The Married Man’s Guide to Adultery: A Study of Adulterations (Tafelberg, 1998). This was his only attempt to write prose in English, and is a satire on modern life, in a style that Heilna du Plooy has referred to as "Koöperasiestories on steroids".

The third novel, Fees van die Ongenooides ("Feast of the Uninvited") , started out as an English TV series, and was expanded into a novel and published in 2008 It was his last novel and is the one now considered by many to be one of his most significant artistic contributions and certainly his ultimate achievement in prose. A monumental work about the Anglo-Boer War, it was also translated and published in English (as The Feast of the Uninvited).

TV plays and series

Having written two sets of the enormously popular short stories entitled Koöperasiestories ("co-op stories") for Die Transvaler, he reworked the stories as a immensely popular TV series - utilizing a simple yet revolutionary format for his tragi-comic tales of life in the South African "platteland". He also wrote the script for the TV series Mattewis en Meraai, based on his play of the same name, and another small town series entitled Pandjieswinkelstories ("pawn shop stories"), for KykNET, Maplotters.

Other series included TJ7 , Maplotters, Andries Plak, Dryfsand and the Boer war series Feast of the Uninvited, which he later reworked as a powerful Afrikaans novel.

Besides the many series, he also wrote a few single dramas for TV, including Anderkant Sesriem ("The other side of Sesriem") and ’n Rand ’n Droom ("A rand a dream").


He wrote the screenplays for a number of films, including Siener in die Suburbs, 'n Seder Val in Waterkloof, Nag van die 19de, Liewe Hemel, Genis! (1987 - based on the main characters of Koöperasiestories), Weerskant die Nag (1979) and The Devil & The Song (on the life of singer Bles Bridges).

As producer

As storyteller and TV personality

In the 1980s he became a much beloved TV personality, famous for his storytelling ability as the presenter and participant in programmes such as Spies en Plessie and Maak 'n Las, and his talent as interviewer of notable personalities with P.G. Gesels Met.

Awards etc.

He was awarded the Hertzog Prize for Drama in 1972 for Siener in die Suburbs, but also taking into consideration Die Nag van Legio.

Hofmeyr Prize (1970) – Die nag van Legio

CNA Prize (1971) – Siener in die suburbs

Hertzog Prize for Drama (1972) – Nag van Legio and Siener in die suburbs.

WA Hofmeyr Prize (1973) – Siener in die Suburbs

FAK Prize for Light Fiction (1988) – Het olifante elmboë?

Insig Afrikaanse Onbeperk Pioniersprys (2002)

ATKV Television Prize for Best Script (2007) – For the TV series Dryfsand

ATKV Prize: Fees van die Ongenooides (2009)

Helgaard Steyn Prize: Fees van die Ongenooides (2012)






Sunday Times Magazine, 2 July 1989.

Percy Tucker, 1997;

Temple Hauptfleisch, 1997

J.C. Kannemeyer, 19**

Carstens, B.H.J. 2009.

Aktueel (p. 3), Die Burger Thursday, 8 June 2017.

Kuns en Vermaak (p. 6), Die Burger Friday, 9 June 2017.

Rapport Weekliks (pp. 8-9), Rapport 11 June 2017.

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