Jan Sebastian Rabie was born in George on 14 November 1920. He matriculated in Riversdal and in 1945 completed his Masters Degree in Afrikaans & Dutch at the University of Stellenbosch. In 1948 he moved to Paris, France, where he stayed for 7 years. The time abroad had an important influence on his writing and his life, since this is where he met the artist Marjorie Wallace, whom he married in 1955.
On their return to South Africa, they lived in Green Point and he worked for the SABC. Jan and Marjorie were awarded a Carnegie Bursary in 1966, which allowed them to travel to America before settling on the island of Crete for three years. In 1970 they moved to Onrus and lived there until Jan passed away on 15 November 2001 – a day before his 81st birthday.
Jan’s first novel, Nog skyn die sterre, was published in 1943 and was set during the Great Trek. It is, however, his collection of short stories titled Een en twintig, published in 1956, which has been described as a watershed in Afrikaans literature. According to André P. Brink it also “changed the path of Afrikaans literature”.
Jan was also involved in the struggle against censorship and he was a member of the Afrikaans Writers’ Guild.
Did you know?
- Jan and Marjorie’s house in Onrus was a place where writers and poets such as Uys Krige, Etienne Leroux, André P. Brink, Ingrid Jonker, Breyten Breytenbach, Elsa Joubert and Jack Cope would gather, visit and spend hours in intellectual debate.
- Jan translated more than 40 books, mainly from French. These included L’Etranger by Albert Camus into Die buitestander.
- In Paris he befriended various Dutch writers and notables such as Corneille, Karel Appel, Hugo Claus, Bert Schierbeek, Lucebert, Simon Vinkenoog and Rudy Kousbroeck.
- The film director Katinka Heyns made a documentary, Jan-en-Jorie, in celebration of Jan’s 70th birthday. It was broadcasted in 1990. In 2004 the playwright Malan Steyn wrote a play titled Jan en Jorie. Actress Nicole Holm was awarded a Fleur du Cap for her portrayal of Marjorie.
Die groot anders-maak, Human & Rousseau (2004)
21+, Human & Rousseau (2000)
Scheepers Prize for youth novels (1977) – Die seeboek van die sonderkossers
Honorary Doctorate from the University of the Free State (1990)
List of titles
1943 Nog skyn die sterre, Nasionale Pers
1944 Geen somer, Nasionale Pers
1946 Vertrou op môre, Afrikaanse Pers
1947 Die pad na mekaar, Afrikaanse Pers
1957 Ons, die afgod, A.A. Balkema
1963 Mens-alleen, Afrikaanse pers
1981 Johanna se storie, Human & Rousseau
1964 Eiland voor Afrika, Human & Rousseau
1964 Die groot anders-maak, Human & Rousseau
1966 Waar jy sterwe, Human & Rousseau
1977 Ark, Human & Rousseau
1985 En oseaan, Human & Rousseau
Prose: Short stories
1956 Een-en-twintig, A.A. Balkema
1957 Dakkamer en agterplaas, A.A Balkema
1966 Die roos aan die pels, John Malherbe
1980 Versamelverhale, Human & Rousseau
2000 Een en twintig plus, Human & Rousseau
Prose: Science fiction
1957 Swart ster oor die Karoo, Human & Rousseau
1961 Die groen planeet, A.A. Balkema
1971 Die hemelblom, Tafelberg
Prose: Youth novels
1960 Twee strandlopers, Human & Rousseau
1975 Die seeboek van die sonderkossers, Tafelberg
1998 Paryse dagboek, Human & Rousseau
1960 Die evolusie van nasionalisme, Mishoring-pers
1965 Rooi, John Malherbe
1966 Polemika (1957-1965), John Malherbe
1982 ’n Boek vir Onrus, Human & Rousseau
1989 Buidel, Human & Rousseau
1970 Klipwieg, Human & Rousseau
2004 Hutspot, Protea Boekhuis
Waar jy sterwe (1966)
- English (A man apart, 1969)