Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

RIP Mark Behr (1963 – 2015)

Mark Behr
The Smell of ApplesEmbraceKings of the Water

Author Mark Behr has passed away in Johannesburg, at the age of 52, reportedly of a heart attack.

Behr was born in Tanzania in 1963, and grew up in South Africa. His first published novel, The Smell of Apples (1995), appeared first in Afrikaans in 1993 as Die Reuk van Appels, winning the Eugène Marais Prize, the M-Net Award, the CNA Literary Debut Award and The Art Seidenbaum Award from the Los Angeles Times.

The success of the novel compelled Behr to speak publicly about his history as a campus spy for the South African security establishment. In 1996, at a writer’s conference in Cape Town titled “Fault Lines – Inquiries Around Truth and Reconciliation”, he addressed what he called his “betrayal”.

At the Franschhoek Literary Festival in 2010, Behr spoke to Victor Dlamini about what letting go of secrecy meant to him. “Being a spy/informer/betrayer and closeted gay man impacted on my day-to-day life, my relationships with my family and friends and on my writing,” he said, adding that once he had made his secrets public, he could let go of self-loathing and restrictions on his creativity. Behr said he had received unqualified reconciliation from everyone he betrayed: “I answered every question that they wanted to ask me. I allowed them to challenge me and I allowed their suspicion.”

Behr’s second novel, Embrace (2000) was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize and the Encore Award in the United Kingdom. His third, Kings of the Water, was published in 2009.

Behr did his undergraduate and honours degrees at Stellenbosch University in the late 1980s, and three MA degrees at University of Notre Dame in the United States, finishing the last in 2000. He worked at the College of Santa Fe in New Mexico, and at the time of his death was Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Rhodes College, Memphis, Tennessee.

Book details


Please register or log in to comment