Etienne Roché van Heerden was born in Johannesburg on December 3, 1954. He grew up in the Eastern Cape and Stellenbosch, where he matriculated at Paul Roos Gymnasium.
After spending a year in the South African Navy, he studied at the University of Stellenbosch where he completed a B.A. (LL.B) Law Degree and an Honors (cum laude) in Afrikaans and Dutch. He also completed a Masters’ Degree at the University of the Witwatersrand and a Ph.D. at Rhodes University. After his studies, he worked as a lawyer, then in the advertising world and eventually also as a lecturer at the University of Zululand and Rhodes University.
Van Heerden’s debut youth novel, Matoli, was published in 1978. His novel Toorberg, published in 1986, was awarded the Hertzog, CNA, ATKV and WA Hofmeyer prizes.
He is currently a Professor at the University of Cape Town where he gives guidance in creative writing and is also a lecturer in literary theory, media studies and South African and Dutch literature.