T.T. Cloete – vertaling in Engels

TT Cloete – vertaal deur/translated by Heilna du Plooy & Michiel Heyns


TT Cloete

TT Cloete

 T.T. Cloete was born on 31 May 1924 in Vredefort. After matriculation he studied at the University of Pretoria, the University of South Africa, Potchefstroom University and at the Gemeentelijke Universiteit, Amsterdam. He lectured in Afrikaans and Dutch at the University of Potchefstroom, and in 1965 was appointed as professor at the University of Port Elizabeth. Since 1970 he has been professor in Afrikaans and Dutch and Literary Theory at the University of Potchefstroom, and was appointed professor extraordinaire after his retirement in 1983. Cloete was awarded the Gustav Preller Prize in 1976 and in 2002 the NP van Wyk Louw medal for his literary-scientific  publications. He made his debut as poet in 1981 and has to date published eight volumes of poetry, a drama and two volumes of short stories. For his poetry Cloete has received the Ingrid Jonker Prize, the W.A. Hofmeyr Prize, the Louis Luyt Prize, the CNA Prize, the Rapport Prize and the Hertzog Prize. Cloete’s recasting of the Psalms in Afrikaans was widely acclaimed. In 2011 he published the volume Onversadig (Tafelberg).



Spectacular I


from the glittering thin horns and the face

pointed and refined   out over the lightly arched back

to the tufty tail tapered drawn


up  down the crystalline fragility 

of the legs  prances switch-alight


the springbok  sprints with the speed

of a spear  bounces with the whip


of a hairspring  hoop-supple

beneath the lion majestically safe

and fearsomely beautiful

under its weight



the springbok    with a clapsnap


legs and back are broken and elegance is turned

into prey   guileless grace


is down and sprawls

before the violent beauty of a torture spectacular


(From: Jukstaposisie, 1982:12, Tafelberg)

(Tr. by Heilna du Plooy)




            Vredefort: This remarkable geological phenomenon



I grew up

on a seemingly godforsaken fortress of peace, a vredefort

I must have known from birth what later on

I would discover that living on this dome was living on a miracle

… that somebody could have thought that it was not something special

that the hills were merely there for climbing and the Vaal River merely water

for swimming and catching yellow fish … forgive the cliché:

in the crescent of hills rippling from west to east, curved and centring               

on a granite bubble,  there, up to this day, the Creator is visibly near

having poked the place in times earlier than early with an enormous finger.


(From: Driepas, 1989:191, Tafelberg)                                                                           

(Tr. by Heilna du Plooy)


Heilna du Plooy grew up in Alberton, completed a B.A. degree and a Teacher’s Diploma at the Potchefstroom University for CHE. She completed her D.Litt in 1985. She is teaching Afrikaans and Dutch Literature and Literary Theory at the North-West University in Potchefstroom. She regularly publishes academic articles but has also published several short stories in literary journals and contributed to collections of short stories. She also published two volumes of poetry, Die donker is nooit leeg nie (1997) (Darkness is never empty) and In die landskap ingelyf (2003) (Inaugurated into the landscape). She also translates poetry from Dutch into Afrikaans and from Afrikaans into English.


fairy tale of the birds narrated in a monologue                                                               


some birds are made for poems


does anybody watch over them in bad weather?


they puff up their cold feathers

shake themselves up and fly far away

to fetch straw


they mate, lay eggs, sit on eggs


along comes a snake that wipes out nest and eggs


they start afresh                                                             

puff up their feathers                                                     

gird their loins and fetch straw


they sing and repeat everything exactly

as before


they mate, lay eggs, sit on eggs


a storm comes up, it breaks trees

and branches and dreams


do birds feel pain?

does their faith let them down?

can they dream dreams

that shatter like precious chinese porcelain?


can they miss someone so much that they die?

can they plummet with grief,

fly headlong into branches

and hang upside down from their feet

for a last desperate clutch and then fall?


can they die of bad weather?


the birds pull up their socks,

they glean and they mate

gather the bits and the bobs

of the old nest again

in the bad weather


can they understand

how insipid a life

that makes no demand?


can I teach them anything

of the tireless hormic blindness

of the strongest driving force of all drives


bad weather?



(Tr. by Michiel Heyns)



the decorative patterns of the dancing filthy fly


too quick for our sluggish tongue


faster than the flutter of the sugar-bird
from bloom to bloom and the swallow-dive of the bat
in search of insects and swifter than the dance of bees
is her back-flip ballet

against the wall she walks up
without up or down or upside down

nimbler than the gymnast or acrobat
she performs six pirouettes per second

she flies in reverse and hovers against the ceiling

in one composite flight
she weaves three triangles, describes a loop

and then a G-clef, she writes a dollar sign

and ties a bowtie, then she weaves numerals
unrolls a ribbon in the wind

that traces trefoil and cloverleaf


after that a pound note sign
an ampersand

and arabesque


then again traceries of a mosque
circles and spirals, esses and question marks
she trails like a tendril and draws vases with calices

she makes ornaments and writes arabic script
she leaves ice skater’s tracks
white on white barely visible

too quick for our sluggish tongue
and eye in one movement

everything is stitched together


and she has a brain smaller than a sesame seed.



(Tr. by Michiel Heyns)



of the love we call friendship


when on a warm winter afternoon

we rented a boat

we went and drifted
far in the middle of the town dam

the sun’s angle
a light breeze and soft chill
stirred the water delicately
into a curious colour purple

together in silence without prior arrangement
we wove at a single dream

sometimes we lay down in the hull of the boat
and turned on our backs
to search for stars far above the clear-bright sky

and found one
against all our obtuse expectation

the one that for other eyes
only flickers when darkness falls

there we waited for the dusk

we watched the white egrets
that ghostlike before the coming night
rocked on long thin reeds by water’s edge

head above water

and cars cockroaching on far dry roads
that find poems redundant

continents drift slowly and surreptitiously
from each other in centimeters per year

and between them the silent ocean grows
and grows, a new panthalassa

where are you drifting now

the poet waiting inside you
like a foetus in a womb

what came of it

or was it safer to remain silent

perhaps my question-quest is pointless
perhaps you are already wandering invulnerable
in the Beyond

but I still remember after more than half a century
you are a wound within me that just won’t heal

and I miss you still as you were then

a poetic mere young man

how succumbs the love we call friendship.



(Tr. by Michiel Heyns)


Michiel Heyns grew up in various towns and cities all over South Africa, and studied at the Universities of Stellenbosch and Cambridge. He lectured in English at the University of Stellenbosch until 2003, when he took retirement to write full-time. Apart from a book on the nineteenth-century novel and many critical essays, one of which won the English Academy’s Thomas Pringle Award for Criticism, he has published four novels: The Children’s Day, The Reluctant Passenger, The Typewriter’s Tale and Bodies Politic (a fifth, Lost Ground, is due out in 2011). He translated Marlene van Niekerk’s Agaat, which won the 2007 Sunday Times Fiction Award. For this translation he was awarded the English Academy’s Sol Plaatje Prize for Translation 2008 and the South African Institute of Translators’ Award for Literary Translation. His translations of Etienne van Heerden’s 30 Nagte in Amsterdam and Chris Barnard’s Boendoe were published in 2011. He reviews books for the South African Sunday Independent, and was awarded the English Academy’s Thomas Pringle Award for Reviewing in 2006 and again in 2010. 

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