Born Sarel Jakob Pretorius on 7 January 1917 in Postmasburg in the Cape Province, where he went to school for the first while, before matriculating from the Potchefstroom Gimnasium and going on to study at the Potchefstroom University College (PUK) from 1934 to 1938.
He began his career as teacher in 1939 in Johannesburg, marrying the violist Anna Swanepoel in 1943. They had three children. In 1947 he briefly worked as a journalist as co-editor of an Afrikaans journal, before becoming a translator for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in 1948. In 1952 he returned to university to study literature (this included a period of doctoral study in the Netherlands), eventually completing a doctorate at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1964.
He had another period as translator at the SABC (1957-1962), before being appointed a lecturer in Afrikaans and Dutch literature at the University of South Africa, where he remained till his retirement as Professor in 1982. He died on 31 March 1995 in Johannesburg.
Contribution to South African theatre, film, media and performance
Besides his 15 collections of poetry, short stories and literary essays, he wrote a few radio and stage dramas, including Noag (a biblical radio drama broadcast in 1970 by the Afrikaans service of the SABC, and published in the collection Drie Bybelhoorspele collated by Leendert Dekker); .
He translated/adapted a number of international plays into Afrikaans, including Playing with Fire (Strindberg) as Wie Met Vuur Speel ("he who plays with fire") for radio (subsequently adapted for the stage by Herman Pretorius).