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Author Focus

Eugène N. Marais
Biographical info

Eugène Nielen Marais was born in Pretoria on January 9, 1871. He won acclaim not only as a writer, but also as a journalist, lawyer and scientist. After school he started work at the newspaper Land en Volk and was promoted to editor at the age of 19. He subsequently studied law in London and with the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War he tried to return to South Africa via East London, but he contracted malaria and only managed to arrive back in Pretoria at the end of the war.

In 1905 he settled in the Waterberg area and published his studies on animals such as baboons (The Soul of the Ape) and termites (Die siel van die mier).

One of his best-known poems, “Winternag” was published in 1905 and is still regarded as one of the most important poems in Afrikaans. Some of his other famous poems are “Mabalel”, “Skoppensboer” and “Diep Rivier”. Another well-known work that was published in 1927 is Dwaalstories. Eugène was addicted to morphine and he died on March 29, 1936 on his good friend Gustav S Preller’s farm near Pelindaba, when he shot himself

Did you know?

· He was educated mostly in English and his first poem "The Soldier's Grace" was written in 1883 when he was 12.
· His poem, "Die dans van die reën", was set to music by Laurinda Hofmeyr and included in her album Ligdag. Laurika Rauch sings "Skoppensboer", set to music by Abri Helberg (a member of the band Marimba). Marimba also set to music poems such as "Winternag", "Mabalel" and "Diep Rivier" for the award-winning play about Eugène's work, Uit die bloute.
· A cycad was named after him: the Encephalartos eugene-maraisii, which he discovered in the Waterberg area.
· In 1925 he wrote a series of articles in Die Huisgenoot about Die siel van die mier and his study of a termite's nest in the Waterberg. The Belgian Nobel Prize winner Maurice Maeterlinck, who knew Flemish and thus understood Afrikaans, included Marais' theories in his book La vie des termites, without acknowledging Marais and won international acclaim.
· Dramatist Athol Fugard wrote the script for a movie The Guest at Steenkampskraal, about a few months in Eugène's life. It was released in 1977 with Athol playing the role of Eugène.

Author Bookshelf

The Rain Bull and Other Tales from the San, Human & Rousseau (2007)
Dwaalstories, Human & Rousseau (2006)
The Soul of the Ape, Human & Rousseau (2006)
The Soul of the White Ant, Human & Rousseau (2006)
Eugène Marais Versamelde Werke 1, Human & Rousseau (2006)
Eugène Marais Versamelde Werke 2, Human & Rousseau (2006)

List of titles

1922 Magriet van Laastelust and Die wegraak van Sannie, Nasionale Pers
1927 Dwaalstories, Nasionale Pers
1933 Die huis van die vier winde, Afrikaanse Pers
1934 Die leeus van Magoeba, J.L. van Schaik
1948 Keurverhale, Afrikaanse Pers-Boekhandel
1949 Spore in die sand, Afrikaanse Pers-Boekhandel
1950 Laramie die wonderwerker, Afrikaanse Pers-Boekhandel
1965 Paradys van weleer, Human & Rousseau
1984 Versamelde werke, Human & Rousseau

1925 Gedigte, Nasionale Pers
1933 Versamelde gedigte, Nasionale Pers
1936 Versamelde gedigte, Nasionale Pers

1933 Die swart verraad, Afrikaanse Pers Beperk
1937 Nag, J.L. van Schaik

1928 Natuurkundige en wetenskaplike studies, Nasionale Pers
1928 Sketse uit die lewe van mens en dier, Nasionale Pers
1934 Die siel van die mier, J.L. van Schaik
1937 The Soul of the White Ant, Methuen (London)
1938 Burgers van die berge, J.L. van Schaik
1969 The Soul of the Ape, Van Schaik


Die siel van die mier (1934)

  • English (The Soul of the White Ant)

Dwaalstories (1927)

  • English (The Rain Bull and Other Tales from the San)
  • View Website

Books By This Author