PERSONAL: Married; wife's name, Dewetia. Education: Stellenbosch University, Ph.D.
CAREER: Historian, editor, and writer. Cape Town Archives, Cape Town, South Africa, editor in the transcription department.
MEMBER: Cape Historical Society.
AWARDS, HONORS: M-Net Prize, Sanlam/Insig/Kwela Novel Competition, 2001; W.A. Hofmeyr Award, 2003, for Islands.
n Man om te Hardloop, 1973.
Tussen Twee Vlae, Tafelberg-Uitgewers (Cape Town, South Africa), 1974.
Sersant Barodien, Kaapse Korps, Tafelberg (Cape Town, South Africa), 1977.
'n Kanon vir Barbier, Tafelberg (Cape Town, South Africa), 1978.
Vryburger Tas, Tafelberg (Cape Town, South Africa), 1979.
Jan Compagnie: The World of the Dutch East India Company, Tafelberg (Cape Town, South Africa, 1980.
(With Alison Grant and Ronald Mayo) The Huguenots, Maskew Miller Longman (Cape Town, South Africa), 1988.
Die Buiteposte: Voc-Buiteposte onder Kaapse Bestuur 1652-1795, Haum (Pretoria, South Africa), 1993.
The Forts of the Liesbeeck Frontier, Castle Military Museum (Cape Town, South Africa), 1996.
They Rode against an Empire, Castle Military Museum (Cape Town, South Africa), 1999.
Eilande (novel), Tafelburg (Cape Town, South Africa), 2005, translated by André Brink as Islands, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 2004, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Dan Sleigh is an expert on the Dutch colonial period of South Africa and has written numerous historical works about the region. He is also author of the historical novel Eilande, which was translated into English as Islands. Drawing largely on his archival research of the Dutch East Indies Company journals, Sleigh tells the story of the first fifty years of white settlers in South Africa in the seventeenth century, including in the novel such real-life figures as Jan van Riebeeck, who was the colonial governor for the company, and Autshumao, a local Hottentot leader called Chief Harry by the English. Autshumao would eventually become the first prisoner on the colony, and van Riebeeck adopts a Hottentot girl named Eva. "Eva serves in the novel as a living link between the indigenous tribes of the Cape and the European settlers who will destroy them," wrote Christopher Hope in the Manchester Guardian. Eva eventually marries a white man named Pieter and has a daughter named Pieternella, who is the first half-caste person born in the colony. Sleigh writes each chapter around someone who is in someway connected to Pieternella, from Chief Harry of the past to her ship's surgeon father, to her eventual husband, Daniel.
Writing in the Library Journal, Edward B. St. John noted of Islands that "The island concept serves as a multipurpose symbol for Sleigh." The reviewer explained, "The cape itself is an island of Dutch culture between the homeland and the Far East, but its strategic importance is challenged by the islands of St. Helena and Mauritus. And the colony is surrounded by offshore prison camps." Hope also noted that Pieternella's half-caste status makes her "marooned on the island of her racial otherness." Commenting on the novel overall, Hope commented that the reader has "to admire its scope and energy, and its unsentimental readings of how South Africa got to be the way it is," but added that the novel seems "too earnest" and is "long on the meticulous reconstruction of times past—but short of the heartbeat that makes for life." St. John called Islands a "dense but compulsively readable historical novel." Writing in the Spectator, John de Falbe noted that, "In his rendering of so many lives and incidents, Sleigh displays staggering imaginative stamina. The prose is flexible and muscular." "And because Sleigh is so successful in bringing particularities to life," de Falbe added, "the vast upheavals of humanity, culture, environment, spirit and history are represented with Tolstoyan resonance." Booklist critic Hazel Rochman asserted that Islands has "depth and drama" and is "eloquently translated." She concluded that Sleigh's "stirring story uses local details to reveal universal historical truths."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 2005, Hazel Rochman, review of Islands, p. 823.
Guardian (Manchester, England), May 22, 2004, Christopher Hope, review of Islands, p. 28.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2004, review of Islands, p. 1112.
Library Journal, January 1, 2005, Edward B. St. John, review of Islands, p. 100.
Literator (South Africa), April, 2004, Philip John, review of Islands, p. 23.
Spectator, April 24, 2004, John de Falbe, review of Islands, p. 51.
African Review of Books Online, http://www.africanreviewofbooks.com/ (March 9, 2005), Lara Scott, review of Islands.
http://www.exclusivebooks.com/ (March 9, 2005), review of Islands.
http://www.southafrica.info/ (November 24, 2004), Sharon Marshall, review of Islands.