Joan Hambidge

Joan Hambidge

Joan Hambidge (born 11 September 1956 in Aliwal North, South Africa) is an Afrikaans poet, literary theorist and academic (the English surname notwithstanding). She is renowned (or arguably, notorious) for her "out-of-the-closet" style of writing. Her theoretic contributions deal mainly with Roland Barthes, deconstruction, postmodernism, psychoanalysis and metaphysics.


Hambidge studied at the University of Stellenbosch and the University of Pretoria She received her doctorate under André P. Brink at Rhodes University in 1985. She received a second doctorate from the University of Cape Town in 2001.

Although Hambidge says she discovered her muse when she was young, it was while she was a lecturer at the University of the North, Limpopo Province, South Africa, that she started to blossom as a writer.

She was awarded one of the most coveted South African literary prizes- the Eugene Marais Prize for literature- in 1986, for her second volume of poetry, "Bitterlemoene" ("Bitter Oranges"). She also won the Litera Prize as well as the Poetry Institute of Africa Prize for her poetry.

She is currently a professor at the School of Languages and Literature at the University of Cape Town.

Her major creative works

Although she writes in Afrikaans, Hambidge has translated some of her poetry into English. Other translations have been made by an erstwhile colleague of hers, Jo Nel and a close friend, Johann de Lange, (who is himself a poet). Her work has been published in the Netherlands and the UK as well as in the USA.

Hambidge's interest in literary theory (especially psychoanalysis and metafiction) is reflected in her creative works. She tackles the differences between theory and practice in "Judaskus" and writes about Roland Barthes, deconstruction and post-modernism in her 1995 work "Postmodernisme".

Other contributions

Hambidge is a prolific traveller and writes a weekly column for a Cape Town daily, "Die Burger". She is a critic and columnist for the Afrikaans literary e-zine "Litnet".

Literary style

Hambidge is famous for her iconoclastic and irreverent approach to Afrikaans literary traditions and cultural idols and re-examines previously taboo subjects. She is also the first Afrikaans author to have dealt with lesbianism from an insider's point of view. She imposes a humorous and satirical twist on most of the subjects she tackles.

Volumes of poetry

* "Hartskrif" (1985) ("Heart Script")
* "Bitterlemoene" (1986) ("Bitter Oranges")
* "Die Anatomie van Melancholie" (1987) ("The anatomy of melancholy")
* "Palinodes" (1987)
* "Geslote Baan" (1988) ("Closed Circuit/Track")
* "Donker Labirint" (1989) ("Dark Labyrinth")
* "Gesteelde Appels" (1989) ("Stolen Apples")
* "Kriptonemie" (1989) ("Cryptonomy")
* "Verdraaide Raaisels" (1990) ("Twisted Riddles")
* "Die Somber Muse" (1990) ("The Sombre Muse")
* "Tachycardia" (1990)
* "Die Verlore Simbool" (1991) ("The Lost Symbol")
* "Interne Verhuising" (1995) ("Internal house moving")
* "Ewebeeld" (1997) ("Mirror Image")
* "Lykdigte" (2000) ("Cadaver Poems")
* "Ruggespraak" (2001) ("Back Speech")
* "The Coroner's Wife" (English translations of her poems)
* "Die Buigsaamheid van Verdriet" (2005) ("The bendability of sorrow")
* "En skielik is dit aand" (2006) ("And suddenly it's evening")
* "Koesnaatjies vir die proe" (2008)


* "Swart Koring" (1996) ("Black Corn") (Parody on the pulp romance novel, with a lesbian twist)
* "Die Swart Sluier" (1998) ("The black veil") (Parody on pulp detective novels and ghost stories)
* "Judaskus" (1998) ("Judas Kiss")
* "Sewe Sonjas en wat hulle gedoen het" (2001) ("Seven Sonyas and what they did")
* "Skoppensboer" (2001) ("Jack of Spades": this refers to a poem by Eugene Marais, that calls the grim reaper by this name)
* "Palindroom" (2008)
* "Kladboek" (2008) ("Blot Book")

External links

* [ Litnet Literary e-zine, mostly in Afrikaans]
* [ Article in Afrikaans on Joan Hambidge]

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