Explorer, novelist, writer and film-maker, Sir Laurens van der Post was one of the most influential figures of our era. Here, in conversation with Jean-Marc Pottiez, he records his ideas and insights into a wide range of issues and personalities, forged by a lifetime of vast experiences and challenges.
Laurens van der Post was born in Africa in 1906, the thirteenth of fifteen children in a family of Dutch and French Huguenot origins. Most of his adult life was spent his time divided between Africa and England. His professions of writer and farmer were interrupted by ten years of soldiering in the British Army, serving with distinction in the Western Desert, Abyssinia, Burma and the Far East. Taken prisoner by the Japanese, he was held in captivity for three years before returning to active service as a member of Lord Mountbatten's staff in Indonesia and, later, as Military Attache to the British Minister in Java. After 1949 he undertook several official missions exploring little-known parts of Africa, and his journey in search of the Bushmen in 1957 formed the basis of his famous documentary film and The Lost World of the Kalahari. Other television films include All Africa Within Us and The Story of Carl Gustav Jung, whom he met after the war and grew to know as a personal friend. In 1934 he wrote In a Provice, the first book by a South African to expose the horrors of racism. Other books include Venture to the Interior (1952), The Heart of the Hunter (1961), and A Walk with a White Bushman (1986). The Seed and the Sower was made into a film under the title Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, and, more recently, A Story Like the Wind and A Far-Off Place were combined and made into the film A Far-Off Place. Sir Laurens van der Post was awarded the CBE in 1947 and received his knighthood in 1981. He died in 1996.