van Wyk Louw, Nicolaas Petrus (1906–1970) By du Plooy, Heilna
N. P. Van Wyk Louw is regarded as the most prominent poet of the group known as the Dertigers, a group of writers who began publishing mainly in the 1930s. These writers had a vision of Afrikaans literature which included an awareness of the need of thematic inclusiveness, a more critical view of history and a greater sense of professionality and technical complexity in their work. Van Wyk Louw is even today considered one of the greatest poets, essayists and thinkers in the Afrikaans language.
Nicolaas Petrus van Wyk Louw was born in 1906 in the small town of Sutherland in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. He grew up in an Afrikaans-speaking community but attended an English-medium school in Sutherland as well as in Cape Town, where the family lived later on. He studied at the University of Cape Town (UCT), majoring in German and Philosophy. He became a lecturer at UCT, teaching in the Faculty of Education until 1948. In 1949 he became Professor of South African Literature, History and Culture at the Gemeentelijke Universiteit van Amsterdam. In 1960 he returned to South Africa to become head of the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johanneshurg. He filled this post until his death in 1970.