13 October 1938 - 20 February 2005
Dalene Matthee was a hugely successful Afrikaans author whose work still influences South Africa’s literary canon. Although she’s perhaps best known for her forest novels, she also wrote various other titles, and many short stories and children’s stories.
Ms. Matthee was always concerned with conservation of the natural and social environments, and would eventually win the Southern African Institute of Forestry's Award - in 1986 and in 2004 - in recognition of her specialist knowledge of the Knysna Forests; the technically correct nature of her writing; and the extent to which she created awareness of both the need to conserve the forests, and the difficult lives that its people led in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.
The Forest Novels
Circles in a Forest
Kringe in 'n bos
Tafelberg Publishers, Cape Town, 1984
Woodcutter Saul Barnard - an outcast from his community - and a canny old elephant known as Old Foot (who’s being chased mercilessly by hunters) must battle to survive against the mindless destruction of their forest home.
Translated into English, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Icelandic, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish, and also published in Braille. Filmed by Philo Pieterse Productions with Arnold Vosloo as Saul Barnard (1989).
Fiela se kind
Tafelberg Publishers, Cape Town, 1985
A child appears mysteriously at Fiela Komoetie’s home in the Langkloof, on the far side of the Outeniqua Mountains, and many weeks’ hike from the Knysna Forests. Fiela raises Benjamin as her own, but he’s discovered by the authorities, who assume he must be Lukas, the missing son of woodcutter Elias van Rooyen and his wife, Barta. They send him to live with the van Rooyens in the forests, but he will eventually and inevitably ask: “Who am I?”
Translated into Dutch, English, French, German, Hebrew, Slovenian and Swedish, and adapted as a stage play, a musical and an opera. Filmed as Fiela se kind by Katinka Heyns of Sonneblom Films, starring Shaleen Surtie-Richards as Fiela (1988).
The Mulberry Forest
Tafelberg Publishers, Cape Town, 1987
A group of Italian silkworm farming families are enticed to emigrate to the Cape Colony to establish a silk industry in the Knysna Forests. They find on arrival that the promised mulberry trees and farming facilities never existed - and they’re abandoned and ignored by the government, too. A forest worker and his rebellious daughter try to help them return to Italy.
Based loosely on a true story, Moerbeibos has been translated into Dutch, English, German and Swedish, and is available in Braille.
Tafelberg Publishers, Cape Town, 2003
The beautiful Karoliena Kapp - an initiated ‘forest woman’ - falls in love with a young man who has escaped the poverty of his background as a woodcutter. As his wife, she will be required to adapt to life in the village, where the pursuit of profit is the ultimate goal. Realising that she is unwilling to swap the mystical experience of the forests that raised her for the gilded cage of society, she flees just one day after her wedding - taunted along the way by the call of the Cape siskin (Kaapse pietjiekanarie): “Who are you? Who are you?”
For a detailed biography and complete list of Ms. Matthee’s many books and international awards, please see dalenematthee.co.za
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Plants in the Forest Novels
Please visit XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.co.za for a list of plants (with illustrations) mentioned in Dalene Matthee’s Forest Novels