The Konstantin Sofianos Scholarship amount for 2019 currently stands at R28,000 (ZAR).

The essay question for the 5th annual Konstantin Sofianos Scholarship will be published in August/September. This is last year’s question:


Essay Question for the Konstantin Sofianos Scholarship 2018/2019:

The two poems below both deal with the theme and issue of exile, and are written from the point of individual poets who have experienced it in their own lives. Analyse and compare these poems, paying particular attention to the stylistic and imagistic devices each poet uses to represent the experience of exile to the reader. Your essay should not exceed 3 000 words.


(for Stephen L.)

you ask me how it is living in exile, friend ̶
what can I say?
that I’m too young for bitter protest
and too old for wisdom or acceptance
of my Destiny?
that I’m only one of many,
the maladjusted,
the hosts of expatriates, deserters,
citizens of the guts of darkness,
one of the ‘Frenchmen with a speech defect’
or even that here I feel at home?

yes, but that I now also know the rooms of loneliness,
the desecration of dreams, the remains of memories,
a violin’s thin wailing
where eyes look for always further
ears listen quietly inward
– that I too like a beggar
pray for the alms of ‘news from home’,
for the mercy of ‘do you remember’,
for the compassion of “one of these days”

but I do not remember,
songs have faded,
faces say nothing,
dreams have been dreamt
and as if you’re searching for love in a woman’s seaweed hair
you forget yourself in a shuffling nameless mass
of early ageing revolutionaries,
of poets without language and blind painters,
of letters without tidings like seas without tides,
of those who choke of the childishness of longing,
of those who call up spirits from the incense,
conjure up landscapes on their tongues,
throwing up the knowledge of self

– must I too give a deeper meaning?
that all of us are only exiles from Death
soon to be allowed to ‘go home’?

no, for now I begin, groping with hands rotted soft
to understand those who were here before us
and all I ask of you
in the name of what you want to know
be good to those who come after us

– Breyten Breytenbach

(translated from the Afrikaans by Ernst van Heerden)

Winds shift against us

Winds shift against us. The southern wind blows with our enemies. The
passage narrows.
We flash victory signs in the darkness, so the darkness may glitter.
We fly as if riding the trees of a dream. O ends of the earth! O difficult dream!
Will you go on?
For the thousandth time we write on the last breath of air. We die so they do
not prevail!
We run after the echo of our voices. May we find a moon there.
We sing for the rocks. May the rocks be startled.
We engrave our bodies with iron for a river to billow up.
Winds shift against us. North wind with southern wind, and we shout: Where
can we settle?
We ask mythical women for relatives who would rather see us dead.
An eagle settles on our bodies, and we chase after dreams. May we find them.
They soar behind us to find us here. There is no escape!

We live our death. This half-death is our triumph.

– Mahmoud Darwish
(translated from the Arabic by Munir Akash/Carolyn Forché)