Overberg-810x435Derek Attridge at Public Books:

I’m reading one of the great novels of our time. I’m doing so slowly because it’s in Afrikaans, and although I learned the language for many years in South African schools, that was a very long time ago. The novel is Agaat, its title both a proper name (Agatha) and the Afrikaans word for “agate”; the author, Marlene van Niekerk, is a leading Afrikaans poet as well as novelist and short-story writer. Luckily, I have at hand the superb translation by Michiel Heyns, the version in which I first encountered the novel. A film of Agaat is said to be in preproduction, but however successful it turns out to be, it will be able to convey only a glimmer of Van Niekerk’s achievement.

The origins of Afrikaans lie in the contact at the Cape of Good Hope among Dutch settlers, slaves from the Dutch territories in the East, and indigenous peoples, a creolization process that began in the late 17th century. A standard version of Afrikaans was established during the last third of the 19th century, partly in opposition to the dominance of English, and in 1925 it displaced Dutch as one of South Africa’s two official languages. With the triumph of the National Party in 1948, it became the language of government and thus of apartheid, a stigma that still attaches to it in many minds.

more here.