Antjie Krog
(South Africa, 1952)   
Antjie Krog

Antjie Krog was born in 1952 and grew up on a farm in the Kroonstad District of the Free State Province in South Africa. She is the daughter of Willem Krog and Dot Serfontein, herself a writer with whom Krog has a complex relationship of connection and disconnection as literary foremother. She studied at the University of the Free State (BA 1973, BA Hons 1976), the University of Pretoria (MA 1983) and UNISA (Teacher’s Diploma). During the 1980s she taught at a high school and teachers’ college in Kroonstad. In 1993 she became editor of the journal Die Suid-Afrikaan (The South African), based in Cape Town. From 1995 to 2000 she worked for the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) as a radio journalist, reporting on the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commision from 1996 to 1998. During this time she also wrote articles for newspapers and journals.

She has read from her work at various international literary festivals, been keynote speaker at a variety of conferences and lectured extensively on aspects of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in England, Germany, the Netherlands and the USA. In 2004 she was appointed professor extraordinaire at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town. She is married to architect John Samuel, and has four children and three grandchildren.

Krog’s first volume Dogter van Jefta was published in 1970 when she was 17 years old, following adverse publicity about the poem ‘My mooi land’ (‘My beautiful land’) published in a school yearbook. To date Krog has published ten volumes of poetry as well as three volumes of children’s verse in Afrikaans. Her poetry is strongly autobiographical, depicting the progressive stages of her private experience within the larger context of public life in South Africa. It is also characterised by a constant reflection on the writer’s aesthetic, political and ethical responsibilities. Whereas her first four collections, published in the 1970s, focused mostly on the private experience of the female adolescent and student, the young married woman and mother, the volumes published in the 1980s became increasingly politicised. These books gave voice to a transgressive gender consciousness (Otters in bronslaai, 1981) and made use of historical material to engage with the oppressive policies of the apartheid government (Jerusalemgangers, 1985 and Lady Anne, 1989).

Krog’s first collection to be published in the nineties (Gedigte 1989-1995, 1995) was a deliberate attempt to move away from the complexity of the previous volumes and used thematic material not normally found in poetry (peeing in township toilets, for instance). Kleur kom nooit alleen nie (2000) grappled with defining her own position in post-apartheid South Africa as well as finding a place for herself in the larger context of Africa. The next volume was published simultaneously in Afrikaans and English as Verweerskrif / Body Bereft (2006), eliciting controversy for its candid account of the menopausal woman and ageing female body. Her most recent publication is Waar ek jy word / Waar ik jou word (2009), a slim collection of Afrikaans poems with Dutch translations published as the National Poetry Day booklet in the Netherlands.

Krog’s poetry is strongly metaphorical, intensely lyrical and passionate in its engagement with both the private and the political spheres of life (the main character in J.M. Coetzee’s novel Diary of a Bad Year refers to the “white heat” of her work). She mostly uses the free-verse form, but also has the ability to vary her use of poetic forms and to build densely constructed cycles and volumes.

Krog started publishing prose in the 1990s, developing a unique form of autobiographical writing which combines factual with fictional and lyrical elements. The best known of these works is her account of reporting on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Country of my Skull (1998). It was her first work to be published in English and brought her international recognition. She has also written a play, Waarom is die wat voor toyi-toyi altyd so vet? which was performed at arts festivals in South Africa in 1999.

Since the late 1990s, Krog has also established herself as a translator. She has translated Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom (2001), works by Henk van Woerden and Tom Lanoye, as well as a selection of South African verse written in the indigenous African languages into Afrikaans. This was followed by a reworking of narratives in the extinct language /Xam into Afrikaans poems in Die sterre sê ‘tsau’ and English poems in The stars say ‘tsau’ (2004).

She has won major awards in almost all the genres she has worked in: poetry, journalism, fiction and translation. Her work has been translated into English, Dutch, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and Serbian.

© Louise Viljoen


Dogter van Jefta, Human & Rousseau, Cape Town, 1970
Januarie Suite, Human & Rousseau, Cape Town, 1972
Mannin, Human & Rousseau, Cape Town, 1974
Beminde Antarktika, Human & Rousseau, Cape Town, 1974
Otter in Bronslaai, Human & Rousseau, Cape Town, 1981
Jerusalemgangers, Human & Rousseau, Cape Town, 1985
Lady Anne, Taurus, 1989
Gedigte 1989-1995, Hond, 1995
Kleur kom nooit alleen nie, Kwela, Cape Town, 2000
Eerste Gedigte, Human & Rousseau, Cape Town, 1981
Verweerskrif, Umuzi, Cape Town, 2006

Country of my Skull, Random House, 1998
A Change of Tongue, Random House, 2003
’n Ander Tongval, Tafelberg, Cape Town, 2005

Relaas van ’n Moord, Human & Rousseau, Cape Town, 1995

Verse for children
Mankepank en ander Monsters, 1989
Voëls van anderster vere, Buchu Books, 1992
Fynbos feetjies, Umuzi, Cape Town, 2007

Translations into other languages

Account of a Murder (prose, translated by Karen Press), Heinemann, 1997
Down to My Last Skin (poetry), Random House, 2000
Body Bereft (poetry), Umuzi, Cape Town, 2006
Fynbos fairies (children's poetry), Umuzi, Cape Town, 2007

Om te kan asemhaal (poetry), Atlas, Amsterdam, 1999 (translated by Robert Dorsman)
De kleur van je hart (book about the Truth Commission), Metz & Schilt, Amsterdam, 2000 (translated by Robert Dorsman en Ed van Eeden)
Kleur komt nooit alleen (poetry), Uitgeverij Podium, Amsterdam, 2003 (translated by Robert Dorsman)
Relaas van een moord (novel), Uitgeverij Podium, Amsterdam, 2003 (translated by Robert Dorsman)
Liederen van die blauwkraanvogel (poetry), Uitgeverij Podium, Amsterdam, 2003 (translated by Robert Dorsman)
Wat de sterren zeggen (poetry volume plus CD), Uitgeverij Podium, Amsterdam, 2004 (translated by Robert Dorsman)
Lijfkreet (poetry translated into Dutch), Uitgeverij Podium, Amsterdam, 2006 (translated by Robert Dorsman en Jan van der Haar)
Een andere tongval (A Change of Tongue translated into Dutch), Contact, Amsterdam, 2004 (translated by Robert Dorsman)
Waar ik jou word (special National Poetry Day booklet in Dutch and Afrikaans), Uitgeverij Podium, Amsterdam / Poetry International, Rotterdam, 2009 (translated by Robert Dorsman en Jan van der Haar)
Hoe zeg je dat? (poetry) Odium, Amsterdam, 2010 (translated by Robert Dorsman en Jan van der Haar)
Niets liever dan zwart (non-fiction) Uitgeverij Contact, Amsterdam, 2010 (translated by Robert Dorsman)

La Douleur des Mots (book about the Truth Commission), Actes Sud, Paris, 2004
Ni pillard, ni fuyard (selection of poetry translated into French by Georges Lory), Le temps qu’il fait, Cognac, 2004

Terra del mio sangue (book about the TRC), Nutrimenti, 2006

Zavicaj moje lobanje (book about the TRC), Sanizdat FreeB92, Belgrade, 2000

Krog as translator

Met woorde soos met kerse (poetry from the indigenous languages of
South Africa), Kwela, Cape Town, 2002
The stars say ‘tsau’, (poetry from the /Xam records), Kwela, Cape Town, 2004
Die sterre sê ‘tsau’, Kwela, Cape Town, 2004

Lang Pad na Vryheid (translation of Long walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
into Afrikaans), Vivlia Publishers, 2000

Domein van Glas (translation of Mondvol Glas by Henk van Woerden from Dutch
into Afrikaans)
Mamma Medea (translation of Mamma Medea by Tom Lanoye from Dutch into Afrikaans)


Eugene Marais prize for the most promising young writer (1973) // Dutch/Flemish prize Reina Prinsen-Geerligs prize for most promising young writer (1976) // Rapport prize for best literary work in a particular year (1987) // Hertzog prize for the best poetry volume over three years (1990) // Pringle Award for excellence in journalism for reporting on the Truth Commission (1996) // Foreign Correspondent award for outstanding journalism (1996) // Alan Paton award for best South African non-fiction work for Country of My Skull (1999) // BookData/South African Booksellers’ Book of the Year Prize for Country of My Skull (1999) // Honourable Mention in the Noma Awards for Publishing in Africa for Country of My Skull (1999) // Award from the Hiroshima Foundation for Peace and Culture (2000) // Olive Schreiner award for prose for Country of My Skull (2000) // FNB award for best poetry volume for Down to My Last Skin (2000) // RAU prize for best book for Kleur kom nooit alleen nie (2000) // Country of my Skull named as one of the top 100 books written by Africans in
the twentieth century // South African Translators Award for Best Translation in the poetry category for translation of poetry from the indigenous South African languages in Met woorde soos met kerse // South African Translator’s Award for best translation overall for Met Woorde soos met kerse // A Change of Tongue nominated as one of the top ten books of the ten years of South African democracy by South African libraries (LIASA) // Kanna Award at the Klein Karoo Kunstefees for ‘Innovative Thinking’ (2004) // Nielsen Book Data Booksellers’ Award of the Year for A Change of Tongue (2004) // Open Society Prize from the Central European University (previous winners were Jürgen Habermas and Vaclav Havel) (2006) // Protea Prize for best volume of poetry in Afrikaans (2006) // Research fellowship at Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (2007/2008) // Honorary Doctorate from the Tavistock Clinic of the University of East London // Honorary Doctorate from the University of Stellenbosch // Honorary Doctorate from the University of the Orange Freestate // Honorary Doctorate from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University


In English

Defence of Poetry: 2004, article by Antjie Krog on PI

“I speak, holding up your heart . . . ”: Cosmopolitanism, forgiveness and leaning towards Africa, Van der Leeuw 2006 lecture by Antjie Krog

‘Literature enables you to examine your life’ Michelle McGrane interviews Antjie Krog

More poems by Antjie Krog, translated by Karen Press, and published in Jack magazine

Wikipedia article about Antjie Krog

Antjie Krog’s page on publisher Umuzi’s website

Antjie Krog reads from Fynbos fairies on YouTube

Antjie Krog’s page on LitNet (in English)

Antjie Krog’s page on LitNet (in Afrikaans, with links to articles in English and Afrikaans)

PIW poet page of Karen Press, translator of Krog’s poem ‘Where I Become You’

Helene Strauss, ‘From Afrikaner to African: whiteness and the politics of translation in Antjie Krog’s A Change of Tongue’ (African Identities, Volume 4, Issue 2, October 2006, pp. 179–194)

In Dutch

Van der Leeuw-Lezing 2006

VPRO RAM Interview 2004 (video)

De Avonden audio interview with Antjie Krog


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