Obituary by Jakobus Cilliers


written by Jacobus Cilliers (Diocesan College, Rondebosch & Balliol 2008)

Konstantin Sofianos (South Africa at large & Wadham 2006) passed away on Friday, 17 April, 2015.

Konstantin took words seriously. He consumed huge numbers of them in the vast scope of his reading, and he had a masterful command of the language – at once eloquent and playful, sincere and ironic, densely allusive and utterly original. But he never using words lightly. For him, literature was more than a subject and teaching was more than a job. The written word was a path into a great expanse of thought and beauty, and he cared deeply about the task of leading others there.

Konstantin also took his friends seriously. He was a sensitive and sympathetic, sincere, capable of extraordinary warmth and kindness. I recall he came to Rhodes House at the start of each new academic year to meet the new South African arrivals, because “you know, things can get tough here and we need to look out for each other.” He was right, and he did.

I believe that Konstantin held the world to a higher standard than most. He was unimpressed by conventional measures of success and status, and he didn’t suffer fools gladly. He was staunchly, vocally leftist in his politics, committed to ideals of justice and passionate about the future of South Africa.

And it is with that same stubborn faith he fought cancer, for almost two years. (As he was about to start yet another instalment in a seemingly endless series of painful treatments, he quoted an old Marxist slogan: “Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.”) Even when he knew that the end was likely drawing near, he was wry, brave, and thoughtful of others; his last wishes to his friends were for them to offer support to his parents.