Prof JC Steyn

We mourn the loss of a dear friend and colleague, Prof Jaap Steyn. Read the obituary here.

Epitaph - Prof Klaus von Delft

On Saturday 28 August, the university community lost one of its erstwhile stalwarts: Prof Klaus von Delft, former head of the then German department, later section head in the amalgamated Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French. In retrospect the designation of being a “stalwart” should be qualified, as Von Delft never was swayed by popular institutional opinions of the times, but rather followed an unwavering sense of integrity in everything he did. His impact on German teaching in South Africa, but specifically in the Free State region, can hardly be overestimated: an academic career that started in 1963 and stretched over decades, and that included numerous academic and cultural initiatives to open up the world of Germany and the German-speaking countries to generations of students. Whether it was through the classical works of Goethe and Schiller, the pathos of the Romantics, the irony of the modernists or writers struggling with existential questions after the Second World War – for many students Von Delft opened a new world of ideas and sentiments to be explored. And often the exploration ended where it started: learning more about oneself and one’s place in the world through the gift of language and poetry.

Although born in the small town of Stutterheim in 1937 (his father was a pastor in the Lutheran church), Von Delft spent the years 1939-1949 in Germany, as what should have been only a visit to a sick grandfather was vastly prolonged with the outbreak of the Second World War. The return to South Africa eventually anticipated a university career in Germanistik (German Studies), where he was responsible for teaching both language and literature, although most of his students will probably best remember his encyclopaedic knowledge of German literature and culture. His career saw many changes on different levels – establishing and continuing a high standard of German teaching at tertiary level, navigating changes in the methodology of foreign language teaching, participating in the merger of three language departments and always doing everything in his power to arouse and cultivate the interest of young people for the world(s) offered by the words and cadences of his mother tongue. But he also was scholar, administrator, and mentor – also during difficult times when the future of German at the UFS seemed bleak to some. His too early retirement as senior professor did not diminish his interest in his discipline, as he remained willing to avail himself for contract lectures for many ensuing years. And it was a great honor to welcome him to the 28th conference of the Association for German Studies in Southern Africa hosted at the UFS in 2019 – the kind words of many members bore testimony to the estimation in which he was held by many colleagues and former colleagues from the community of German scholars.

Prof HP van Coller, former head of the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French, remembers him as follows:

 I got to know Klaus von Delft really well on the Research Committee of the Faculty of Arts (together with the Faculty of Social Sciences the precursor of the current Faculty of Humanities).

For years he was the chairperson of this important committee, which at the time - before the system based on research incentives - was in charge of the allocation of research funds, had to approve research projects, and either accept or reject reports.

Klaus was an even balanced and fair judge of projects, but had little patience for vague and imprecise formulations and anything that, for him, smelled of opportunism. I still remember our long brawl over an application from a visual artist for a research grant to visit overseas museums. To me it was a fair request, to Klaus it sounded like academic tourism. In the end he relinquished without a word of reproach to me.

I very seldom saw him being angry. Except in the case of a colleague who received a large research award, but just could not come up with his report the day before. His first excuse was that a water leak in the library had rendered his report unusable. It was stubbornly accepted by us. But when he made the same excuse six months later (admittedly, pipes at the time were pitifully bad) the fat was in the fire and the German's patience had run out.

As a good researcher, Klaus sometimes had his own research play second fiddle, because he tried to advance his discipline in so many fields: as an excellent lecturer who was always available to students, a tireless champion for German in the context of secondary education, choral music in German, etc. But it was with regard to the management of the faculty where he really left deep footprints: always well prepared, always logical, and always polite. After losing the vote for the deanship by a single vote to Andries Snyman, he did not pull back in indignation, or oppose Andries. He actually proved to be Andries' important right-hand man and confidant for years. Only someone who puts himself second, acts like this.

All in the interest of academia. In good old times a gathering place of free spirits that both seeked out and shared scientific knowledge. This was the kind of academic and human being Klaus von Delft was. The name "Renaissance man", that is lavishly used these days, suits him well. Cultivated lover and connoisseur of music, literature, the classics, art, nature…

Ave atque vale!

One of his former colleagues, and later section head of German at the UFS, remembers him in kind:

I will remember Prof. Von Delft as a man of exceptional qualities: humble, thoughtful, kind, generous, never judgemental, compassionate, always dependable, brilliant, and also witty and entertaining. His wisdom, broad knowledge and work ethic are legendary. He led by example and stimulated his students to do give their best. I, like many others, will remember Prof. Von Delft arriving at the university on his vespa scooter to give lectures long after his retirement. His contribution and selfless support will always be appreciated. His qualities have found expression also in his family. The Von Delfts have been an asset to humanity.

Prof. Heidi Hudson, current dean of the Faculty of Humanities shares the following memories:

Prof. Von Delft will be remembered by everyone whose life he touched – certainly by a large Bloemfontein community of former students, colleagues, family and friends. And this remembrance is important – as poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: “Wenn ihr mich sucht, sucht in euren Herzen. Habe ich dort eine Bleibe gefunden, lebe ich in euch weiter” (When you look for me, look in your own hearts. If I have found a dwelling there, I will live on in you)".

Afrikaans Version

Elsa Joubert – Tribute

Elsa Joubert, wat op 14 Junie 2020 in die ouderdom van 97 aan covid 19-verwante oorsake oorlede is, was een van die Afrikaanse letterkunde se heel grotes. Internasionaal is sy veral bekend om haar roman Die swerfjare van Poppie Nongena (1978), wat toe dit in 1974 as vervolgverhaal in die Sondagkoerant Rapport verskyn het, vir talle wit Afrikaanssprekendes die eerste blootstelling was aan die lewe aan die ander kant van die apartheidsbestel se rigiede kleurskeidslyn. Hierdie roman oor die ’n eenvoudige swart vrou se hartverskeurende stryd om ’n plek te kry wat sy haar eie kon noem, is in 2002 ingesluit in Ali Mazrui se invloedryke lys van die 100 Beste Afrikaboeke van die 20ste Eeu, en vanjaar het Christaain Olwagen se filmweergawe daavan ook groot opslae gemaak. Dit kom nadat dit omtrent al wat Suid-Afrikaanse letterkundeprys is gewen het, in tientalle tale vertaal is en in die 1980’s as verhoogstuk in feitlik elke wêreldstad staande ovasies gekry het.

Afrika het Joubert gefassineer en haar eerste werke was reisverhale waarin sy haar verkenning van die kontinent en sy mense weergegee het. Kort voor haar dood het haar laaste werk verskyn, Spertyd, waarin sy ons almal as’t ware voorloop in die reis na die Groot Onbekende. Haar fiksiedebuut, die novelle Ons wag op die kaptein (1963), was in 1982 my voorgeskrewe boek in matriek. Dit het ’n geweldige indruk op my gemaak, en nou nog onthou ek daardie swoel Afrikasfeer, die spanning tussen die protagonis Ana-Paula en haar Portugeuse man, Carlos, en daardie slot waarin die kaptein met die helikopter neerdaal en almal verwilderd aan ’n traliehek vasklou en niemand weet “hierdie hand is swart en hierdie een is wit nie”. Ek onthou ook hoe grondig ongelukkig ek was, nou nog is, oor die standaardkritiek van daardie tyd, klakkeloos herhaal in die besprekingsnotas wat ons by ons onderwyser gekry het, dat daardie slot se deus ex machina-aard die novelle se groot swakheid was.

Ek het haar persoonlik leer ken toe ek die redakteur was van twee van haar outobiografiese werke, ’n Wonderlike geweld (2005) en Reisiger (2009). Soms het ek ’n laatmiddag-whiskey by haar gaan drink in haar woonstel in die aftree-oord Berghof in Kaapstad waar sy tot met haar dood gewoon het. Sy het twee woonstelle weerskante van ’n gang gehad, die een met boekrakke wat tot die plafon gereik het en die ander met ’n groot venster waarin jy kon afkyk op ’n welige, ligdeurstraalde tuin. Ek onthou een verhaal wat sy my in die boekegedeelte van haar woning vertel het, seker toe ons aan ’n Wonderlike geweld gewerk het, want dit gaan oor haar grootwordjare in die Paarl. Dit is egter ’n storie wat, sover ek kan onthou, nie in die boek opgeneem is nie. Dit gaan oor hoe lief Paarliete vir hul dorp is, hoe ekstreem lojaal, en die hooffiguur hierin is ’n tante van Elsa wat baie siek was, so siek dat die familie laat kom is om afskeid te neem. Maar daar waar die familie om die sterwensbed bymekaar was, maak die tante ’n mirakelagtige terugkeer en dit blyk toe dat sy die tipiese nadoodse ervaring gehad het, daardie verblindende lig, die engelkore, die strate wat met juwele geplavei is, de lot. En iemand sê toe: “Ai, tant Maggie, dit moes darem maar báie mooi gewees het.” En tant Maggie (as dit haar naam was) sê met ’n week stemmetjie: “Jaaaa ... maar dis darem nie die Paarl nie.”

Francois Smith – dosent by Afrikaans en Nederlands, Duits en Frans, UV

Luister na die RSG-huldigingsdokumentêr: mp3


Skrywer en historikus, is Maandagaand, 1 Mei 2017 in die Noorderbloem-aftreeoord in Bloemfontein oorlede. Hy was 77. Schoeman het onder meer 19 romans, verskeie werke oor die geskiedenis, en etlike draaiboeke geskryf. Van sy bekendste romans sluit in 'n Ander Land; Op 'n Eiland, Hierdie Lewe, en Na die Geliefde Land. Schoeman is drie keer met die Hertzogprys vir Prosa bekroon. Lees meer (Karel Schoeman groet).


T: +27 51 401 2240 or

Marizanne Cloete: +27 51 401 2592

Katlego Mabulana: +27 51 401 2495
Juanita Hlongwane: +27 51 401 3269

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