Human & Rousseau

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Author Focus

Jan van Tonder

Biographical info

Jan Christiaan van Tonder was born on 29 August 1954 and grew up in Durban. He has a degree in psychology and criminology. He started writing in 1979 while he was working as a warder at the Point prison in Durban. The story was published and was selected as Huisgenoot's short story of the month. Besides prison guard he has also worked as ticket inspector, stoker, restaurant manager, training official, journalist, painter and writer.

He was court reporter and arts editor at the Transvaler and was then appointed as chief sub-editor at the SABC in Pretoria. Hy has been nominated for an Artes Award for radio reporting. Hy has been living in Oudtshoorn for a number of years.

He made his debut in 1983 with the novella Wit vis. It was followed by a collection of short stories, Aandenking vir ’n vry man, which, just like his succeeding novella, Is Sagie, was a runner-up for the ATKV Prose Prize. His fourth book, Die kind, received the ATKV Prose Prize in 1990 and the FAK Prize for easy reading in 1991.

Did you know?

  • Roepman was adapted for the screen and the movie released in 2011.
  • In 2005 Roepman was shortlisted for the WA Hofmeyr and M-Net Prizes.
  • He recently (2008) earned his skipper's licence.
  • Jan received the Sanlam Prize for Afrikaans Theatre for the play Lewensreg in 2007. It was performed at the KKNK, the Volksblad Arts Festival and the Aardklop National Arts Festival.
  • One of his short stories was included in the collection A land apart (1987), compiled by André P. Brink en J.M. Coetzee from South African short stories.

Author bookshelf

Roepman, Human & Rousseau (2011 re-issue)
, Human & Rousseau (2006)
Is Sagie, Best Books (2006)


ATKV Prose Prize (1990) – Die kind
FAK Prose Prize (1991) – Die kind
Sanlam Theatre Prize (2007) – Lewensreg

List of titles

1983 Wit vis, Perskor
1984 Aandenking vir ’n vry man, HAUM
1987 Is Sagie, HAUM
1989 Die kind, HAUM/Kagiso
2004 Roepman, Human & Rousseau

1998 The Little Karoo / Die Klein Karoo (with Lanz von Horsten), Human & Rousseau


Roepman (2004)
English (Stargazer, 2006)

Die kind (1989)
English (Ongenagama, the Child with No Name)

Books By This Author