Famous South African Novelists

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Prue Leith

Prue Leith
4
Famous As: Restaurateur
Birthdate: February 18, 1940
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: South Africa

British-South African chef and culinary expert Prue Leith had begun her career with a lunch-supplying business. She later launched her Michelin-starred restaurant Leith's in Notting Hill and a culinary school. Best known as a judge on The Great British Menu, she is also associated with various charitable initiatives.

 2 J. M. Coetzee

J. M. Coetzee
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Famous As: Novelist, Author, Essayist
Birthdate: February 9, 1940
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Cape Town, South Africa

Nobel Prize- and two-time Booker Prize-winning author J. M. Coetzee had started his career as a Fulbright scholar. After teaching English in the U.S. and South Africa, he now lives and teaches in Australia. He is best known for his colonial settings in novels such as Waiting for the Barbarians.

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 3 Chris Barnard

Chris Barnard
4
Birthdate: July 15, 1939
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mataffin, Nelspruit, South Africa
Died: December 28, 2015

Chris Barnard was a South African cardiac surgeon best remembered for performing the first human-to-human heart transplant surgery in the world. Barnard is credited with developing a cure for intestinal atresia in children. He saved the lives of at least 10 babies in Cape Town and his technique was adopted by surgeons in the United States of America and Britain.   

 4 Nadine Gordimer

Nadine Gordimer
3
Famous As: Writer, Political Activist
Birthdate: November 20, 1923
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Transvaal, South Africa
Died: July 13, 2014

Nadine Gordimer was a South African political activist and writer. Gordimer, who wrote extensively on racial and moral issues such as apartheid in South Africa, was honored with the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature. An important member of the anti-apartheid movement, Nadine Gordimer's advice to Nelson Mandela led to his famous 1964 defense speech, which eventually led to his conviction.

 5 Athol Fugard

Athol Fugard
3
Famous As: Actor, Writer, Novelist, Screenwriter, Journalist, Playwright, Theatre director
Birthdate: June 11, 1932
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Middelburg

Athol Fugard is a South African playwright, director, novelist, and actor. Widely regarded as the greatest South African playwright of all time, Fugard has received several prestigious awards and honors including a Tony Award for lifetime achievement. His novel Tsotsi, which was adapted into a film by filmmaker Gavin Hood, earned Hood an Academy Award.

 6 Bryce Courtenay

Bryce Courtenay
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: August 14, 1933
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Johannesburg
Died: November 22, 2012

Bryce Courtenay was a South African-Australian novelist and advertising director. Best remembered for his novel The Power of One, Courtenay remains one of Australia's best-selling writers several years after his death. Bryce Courtenay's relationship with his readers played an important role in his success; he often gave away free books to gain a loyal fan base.

 7 Laurens van der Post

Laurens van der Post
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Famous As: Novelist, Writer, Screenwriter, Journalist
Birthdate: December 13, 1906
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philippolis
Died: December 16, 1996

Laurens van der Post was a South African author, soldier, farmer, educator, humanitarian, philosopher, journalist, and conservationist. A close friend of Prince Charles, Van der Post also served as political adviser to several British officials. He was also the godfather of Prince William. 

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 8 Mbongeni Ngema

Mbongeni Ngema
3
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: May 10, 1955
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

A South African Zulu, Mbongeni Ngema worked as a manual laborer and a guitarist before venturing into theater and then becoming a playwright and a director. While he created controversy with his play Asinamali!, he gained international repute with Sarafina! He was also a choir director for The Lion King.

 9 John Langalibalele Dube

John Langalibalele Dube
2
Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: February 22, 1871
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: near Inanda Mission Station, South Africa
Died: February 11, 1946

John Langalibalele Dube was a South African essayist, philosopher, politician, publisher, educator, editor, novelist, and poet. He served as the president of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) from 1912 to 1917. He felt strongly about human rights and founded the Inanda Seminary Institute for Girls. He was passionate about encouraging black people to launch their own businesses. 

 10 André Brink

André Brink
2
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: May 29, 1935
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Vrede, South Africa
Died: February 6, 2015

André Brink was a South African essayist, novelist, and poet. Brink used both English and Afrikaans to write. He also worked at the University of Cape Town where he taught English. In the 1960s, Brink played a significant role in a literary movement called Die Sestigers, which sought to use Afrikaans to speak against the apartheid regime.

 11 Peter Abrahams

Peter Abrahams
2
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: March 3, 1919
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Vrededorp
Died: January 18, 2017

 12 Noel Langley

Noel Langley
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: December 25, 1911
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Durban, South Africa
Died: November 4, 1980

South Africa-born novelist and screenwriter Noel Langley began his career in London with his play Queer Cargo. Concurrently with writing plays, he also started publishing novels like Cage Me a Peacock, and There's a Porpoise Close Behind Us, very soon gaining recognition in Hollywood with screenplay Maytime.  His other popular screenplays include The Wizard of Oz, Tom Brown’s Schooldays etc.

 13 Es'kia Mphahlele

Es'kia Mphahlele
2
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 17, 1919
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Marabastad, South Africa
Died: October 27, 2008

Best known for penning Down Second Avenue, which is regarded as a South African classic, Es'kia Mphahlele was initially a teacher whose term was terminated due to his opposition of the Bantu Education Act. He later held multiple academic posts in Europe, Africa, and the US.

 14 Alex La Guma

Alex La Guma
2
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: February 20, 1924
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cape Town, South Africa
Died: October 11, 1985

South African author Alex La Guma, best known for his works such as A Walk in the Night and In the Fog of the Season’s End, was born into a family that was associated with the black liberation movement. He also served as the main representative of the African National Congress.

 15 Bernard Binlin Dadié

Bernard Binlin Dadié
2
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: January 10, 1916
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Assini, Côte d’Ivoire
Died: March 9, 2019

Better known as a novelist, playwright and poet, Bernard Binlin Dadié was also an able administrator, serving as Ivory Coast's Minister of Culture. Inspired by Africa's rich traditions, he tried to highlight them not only through his writings, but also by publishing several volumes of legends, fables, folktales, and proverbs, concurrently giving expression to Africa's desire for equality and dignity.

 16 William Plomer

William Plomer
1
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 10, 1903
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Transvaal, South Africa
Died: September 21, 1973

Born in South Africa, British author William Plomer created controversy with his very first novel, Turbott Wolfe, which had some white characters as villains. His works include poetry, novels, memoirs, short stories, and opera librettos, too. He had also earned awards such as the Costa Book Award.

 17 Tiyo Soga

Tiyo Soga
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: 1829 AD
Birthplace: Tyume, South Africa
Died: August 12, 1871

South African journalist Tiyo Soga is best known for his collection of fables and legends. He also translated the Bible and John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress into Xhosa, his native language. He also became the first Black to be ordained in South Africa under the United Presbyterian Church.

 18 Lewis Nkosi

Lewis Nkosi
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: December 5, 1936
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Durban, South Africa
Died: September 5, 2010

South African writer Lewis Nkosi had initially been a journalist for the Zulu-English paper Ilanga lase Natal. After receiving a scholarship to Harvard, he was exiled from his country by the Suppression of Communism Act. His critical essays appeared in Home and Exile, and his themes included politics and sexuality.

 19 Samuel Edward Krune Mqhayi

Samuel Edward Krune Mqhayi
1
Famous As: Dramatist
Birthdate: December 1, 1875
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Eastern Cape Province, South Africa
Died: July 29, 1945

The father of Xhosa poetry, Samuel Edward Krune Mqhayi was a poet and novelist whose works reflected his love for Xhosa history. His works include biblical tales such as U-Samson and poetry collections such as Inzuzo. He added a few stanzas to Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, the national anthem of several African countries.

 20 Benedict Wallet Vilakazi

Benedict Wallet Vilakazi
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: January 6, 1906
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Natal
Died: October 26, 1947

Zulu poet and novelist Benedict Wallet Vilakazi went down in history as the first Black from South Africa to earn a PhD. Initially a teacher, he assisted in compiling a Zulu-English dictionary and also spent most of his life in developing the Zulu language and research and teaching associated with it.

 21 Richard Rive

Richard Rive
1
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 1, 1931
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Cape Town, South Africa
Died: June 4, 1989

Richard Rive, regarded as one of the greatest short story writers of South Africa, mostly wrote on themes such as apartheid. His signature style includes a combination of realistic dialogue and imaginative scenarios. He had also had a PhD from Oxford and lectured at renowned institutes such as Harvard.

 22 Dan Jacobson

Dan Jacobson
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: March 7, 1929
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa
Died: June 12, 2014

Born in South Africa, Dan Jacobson was the son of a Latvian father and a Lithuanian mother who had fled the persecution of Jews in their countries. His novels such as A Dance in the Sun mirror the racially segregated South African society of his time.

 23 Uys Krige

Uys Krige
1
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 4, 1910
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Bontebokskloof, South Africa
Died: August 10, 1987

 24 Jack Cope

Jack Cope
1
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 3, 1913
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: South Africa
Died: May 1, 1991

 25 Stuart Cloete

Stuart Cloete
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: July 23, 1897
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: March 19, 1976

 26 Archibald Campbell Jordan

Archibald Campbell Jordan
1
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 30, 1906
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Pondoland, South Africa
Died: October 20, 1968

 27 Rolfes Robert Reginald Dhlomo

Rolfes Robert Reginald Dhlomo
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Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: 1901 AD
Birthplace: Natal, South Africa
Died: 1971 AD

 28 D. F. Malherbe

D. F. Malherbe
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: May 28, 1881
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paarl, South Africa
Died: April 12, 1969

 29 John Eppel

John Eppel
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: September 19, 1947
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Lydenburg, South Africa