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About Antjie Samuel (Krog)
Antjie Krog, born October 23, 1952 in Kroonstad, South Africa, is a prominent South African poet, academic and writer.
She is best known for her book Country of My Skull, which chronicled the TRC. With Krog's reluctant permission, the book was later dramatized for the screen by Ann Peacock resulting in a film of the same name. Released in the United States as In My Country, it stars Samuel L. Jackson and Juliette Binoche.
Published her first volume of poetry at the age of seventeen
Started her career as a journalist at Die Burger newspaper
Her novel abut the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission, Country of My Skull (1998) was named one of the top 100 books written by Africans in the 20th century. It brought her international fame and she was invited as a guest speaker to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, by Poetry International.
She has won most of the prestigious local awards for non-fiction and poetry in both Afrikaans and English.
She holds three honorary doctorates and is an Extraordinary Professor at the University of the Western Cape.
She has recently completed a biographical essay on J.M. Coetzee that will appear in a book edited by Kader Asmal on South Africa's Nobel Prize winners.
Antjie 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.
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