Marlene Van Niekerk

Marlene Van Niekerk is an award-winning poet, novelist and short story writer. She was awarded South Africa’s high honour, the Order of Ikhamanga, in 2011 for her outstanding intellectual contribution to the literary arts and culture field through poetry, literature and philosophical works. She has received many accolades, including being a finalist for the sixth Man Booker International Prize 2015 and shortlisted for the South African Sunday Times Literary Prize, the M-Net Literary Prize, the Booksellers’ Choice Award South Africa and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.


  • The most important South African novel since Coetzee’s Disgrace.

    —The Times Literary Supplement

  • Books like Agaat . . . are the reason people read novels, and the reason authors write them.

    —The New York Times Book Review

  • This is a frank novel about a white South African landowner and her lifelong servant in a radically changing country.

    —O, The Oprah Magazine

  • One of the most extraordinary works that I have ever encountered. . . . van Niekerk exposes all of the nuances of the women’s fraught and volatile relationship with language that is brutally raw, honest, and uncommonly beautiful. Simply a masterpiece.

    —Words Without Borders

  • A family saga of mothers and daughters . . . and a poetic exploration of control and the loss of control. It’s a stylishly inventive book.

    —The Rumpus

  • A beautiful, complicated epic of agrarian life in South Africa from 1948 onward. . . . The book’s relevance to today’s racism and violence are coldly apparent.


  • Wonderful.

    —Good Housekeeping

  • Momentous. . . . It is an allegory of colonial exploitation, apartheid, and the precarious steps towards reconciliation.

    —The Independent

  • This novel stuns.

    —Booklist, Starred Review

  • An innovative epic.

    —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

  • Agaat is a tangle of language and rhyme, of wordplay and digressions. . . . Both absorbing in its minutiae and provocative in its allegorical approach to apartheid, Agaat explodes the domestic sphere to encompass the world.

    —The Portland Mercury

  • In addition to its vivid emotional resonance, Agaat is notable for the wealth of detail it imparts about rural life in South Africa before industrialized farming.


  • Fascinating and moving, this is, above all, a love story.

    —The Times

  • van Niekerk has created a work of stunning breadth and emotional potency.

    —Publishing Perspectives

  • A masterpiece has arrived.

    —South African Sunday Times