New on this site

My piece on postapartheid writing, “No Lay of the Land”, recently published in the New Haven Review, has received a lot of uptake.

The video of my seminar at the Harvard African Studies Workshop series on March 21, under the auspices of Jean and John Comaroff, can be viewed here.

Recently announced – I will be writing the authorized biography of late South African writer André Brink for Penguin Random House. See my Mail & Guardian obituary on Brink and also my piece on Brink on a Litnet online seminar entitled “After Brink”.


Welcome to my website. I am a poet, translator, critic, and occasional writer of fiction. I have published a novel, Bad Sex (2011), three volumes of poetry (Bloodsong, gone to the edges, and Bodyhood), several works of literary translation, and academic books. See Selected Books.

My work as a literary translator includes the English rendition of Triomf (1999), Marlene van Niekerk’s major Afrikaans novel chronicling the rise and fall of apartheid in the tragi-comic tale of a low-life Afrikaans family, the Benades of Triomf, Johannesburg. My translation of Triomf won the SA Translators Institute’s Award for Outstanding Translation in the year 2000 (see Literary Translation).

My other published translations include a rendition of the novel In Stede van die Liefde by celebrated novelist Etienne van Heerden, under the title In Love’s Place (Penguin SA, 2013). Writer Fiona Snyckers commented in a TimesLive review that this book “allows English-speaking readers access to one of the first major works to interrogate the post-apartheid rainbow nation”.

My translation of Cas Vos’s Intimately Absent (Protea Book House, 2010), a cycle of poems on the Abelard and Heloise saga rendered into English, was awarded the SALA Prize for Literary Translation in 2011.

Currently I am a visiting lecturer in the Department of English at Johns Hopkins University. I am also a senior research associate at the University of Johannesburg, and a professor emeritus in English at Stellenbosch University, where I founded the Stellenbosch Literary Project (SLiP) and its associate ventures, and the InZync Poetry Sessions. I was formerly an English professor at both the University of the Witwatersrand (where I was also Head of the School of Literature and Language Studies), and the University of South Africa (see CV).

Apart from producing books, I write critical essays (peer-reviewed research articles published in scientific academic journals, see Research Articles), and I also write in public venues such as the New Haven Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and various South African newspapers and periodicals (see Literary Journalism and Travel Writing).

I have published several scholarly books, including Civilising Barbarians, a monograph, and Herman Charles Bosman in/oor Afrikaans (see Selected Books).

The following description appears in The Columbia Guide to South African Literature in English Since 1945 (Gareth Cornwell, Dirk Klopper, and Craig Mackenzie, Columbia University Press, 2010):

De Kock, Leon (b. 1956) Poet, critic, translator. Born in Mayfair, Johannesburg, he studied at the Rand Afrikaans University and the University of Leeds. After working as a journalist for several years, he joined the English Department of the University of South Africa, where he was professor until 2006. He is now head of the School of Literature and Language Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. Author of Civilising Barbarians: Missionary Narrative and African Textual Response in Nineteenth-Century South Africa (1996), he compiled (with Ian Tromp) the anthology The Heart in Exile: South African Poetry in English, 1990–1995 (1996) and was founding editor of the English-studies journal Scrutiny2. His first collection of poems, Bloodsong (1997), is a set of deeply personal poems that probe childhood experiences and grapple with understanding life in contemporary South Africa. Poems from this collection won him the 1995 Thomas Pringle Poetry Award. He is also the translator into English of the Afrikaans novel Triomf (1994, trans. 1999), by Marlene van Niekerk. His articles on cultural politics in South Africa have introduced new dimensions to debates on postcoloniality. A second volume of poetry, Gone to the Edges, appeared in 2006.