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Laurens van der Post

This South African author was something of a phenomenon – born of Afrikaner parents in the southern Orange Free State in 1906, he started his writing career with the acclaimed book in English , in 1934: In a Province. He served with distinction in the British Army during World War II, being taken prisoner by the Japanese after which he spent three years in a concentration camp. These experiences were to form the subject matter of several works: A Bar of Shadow, The Night of the New Moon and The Seed and the Sower. His post-war sequel of experiences as senior officer in charge of released POW’s at the request of the defeated Japanese, was the basis of the book The Admiral’s Baby. He was decorated with a CBE for his wartime services.

His real fame came after 1949, as he was feted as something of a modern explorer. A trip to the Central African country of Malawi, and a disastrous ascent of Mount Mlanje was the story told in A Venture to the Interior. He accompanied and later led expeditions into the Kalahari Desert and made his first acquaintance with the stone-age indigenous people, the Bushmen. He became enchanted with their closeness to nature, their innate story-telling skills and gift of mimicry. A number of books came from his pen in subsequent years, returning time and again to the theme of these children of nature: The Lost World of the Kalahari, The Heart of the Hunter were romanticised factual accounts, while the novels, A Story like the Wind, A Far-off Place and A Mantis Carol used the desert and Bushman life as the milieu.

A number of well-received novels were also written during the post-war period, most with an African theme: The Face Beside the Fire, Flamingo Feather, The Dark Eye in Africa and The Hunter and the Whale. It was also during this time that he met and became friendly with the noted psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. Van der Post wrote and presented a three-part Television series on the man and his work, but felt he had not done justice to the breadth of the subject. The book Jung and the Story of Our Time was to fill that void. Van der Post also wrote a travel book, Journey into Russia, following a tour of that country in the early sixties.

For the latter part of his life, the author moved to England, and wrote a number of autobiographical works like About Blady, Yet being Someone Other and A Walk with a White Bushman, as well as some further works of fiction. It was mainly through these that the author won renown as a poet/philosopher. Fantasy was blended with vivid personal experience and expressed in fluent visionary prose. A number of films were made from his books, among them the noted Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, which was based on his concentration camp experiences. He retraced his Kalahari journey to highlight the plight of the Bushman in modern-day Botswana, in the book Testament to the Bushmen in collaboration with Jane Taylor. For good measure, two culinary books can be included in his repertoire, First Catch Your Eland and African Cooking.

He was a noted friend of the Prince of Wales, and he was knighted in 1981. He was married to Ingrid Giffard, herself an author of note, having penned the best-selling novel: Sigh No More, Ladies, a play: Because We Must, and an autobiographical work: The Way Things Happen. He died in 1996.
Find available items by: Laurens van der Post
Titles by Laurens van der Post
  • In a Province
  • Venture to the Interior
  • The Face beside the Fire
  • A Bar of Shadow
  • Flamingo Feather
  • The Dark Eye of Africa
  • The Lost World of the Kalahari
  • The Heart of the Hunter
  • The Seed and the Sower
  • Journey into Russia
  • The Hunter and the Whale
  • The Night of the New Moon
  • A Story Like the Wind
  • A Far-off Place
  • A Mantis Carol
  • Jung and the Story of our Time
  • First Catch Your Eland
  • Yet Being Someone Other
  • About Blady
  • The Voice of Thunder
  • Feather-Fall
  • Testament to the Bushmen (With Jane Taylor)
  • A Portrait of Japan (With photos by Burt Glinn)
  • A Portrait of all the Russias (With photos by Burt Glinn)
  • The Lost World of the Kalahari (With photos by David Coulson)
  • A Walk with a White Bushman
  • African_Cooking>African Cooking

Information provided by Arne Schaefer, Africana Books.


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