Lessons in writing the biography of the crossover poet, Olga Kirsch

  • Egonne Roth Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv, Israel


Olga Kirsch was an English-speaking Jewess who wrote and published poetry in Afrikaans. As such she exemplifies a crossover poet who introduces the voice of the other into a national canon—in her case, the only Jewish voice in Afrikaans poetry. Three questions were raised in the research and writing of her biography. The first concerns the extent to which she, as a Jew, was influenced by the dominant culture in which she grew up. The second seems more complex: What influence has Olga Kirsch had on the dominant culture—was she able to influence the South African Afrikaans culture and literature in any way? Third, to what extent does the multi-culturalism of Kirsch affect the process of research and writing her biography; are there problems specific to writing the biography of a  cross-cultural writer?  Keywords:  Afrikaans  poetry, cross-culturalism,  Judaism, life  writing, literary influence,  Olga Kirsch.

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