Michiel Heyns grew up all over South Africa – Thaba Nchu, Kimberley, Grahamstown, Cape Town - and was educated at the Universities of Stellenbosch and Cambridge. For much of his adult life he was an academic, lecturing in English at the University of Stellenbosch, but after publication of his first novel, The Children’s Day, he took to writing full-time, publishing The Reluctant Passenger in 2003 and The Typewriter’s Tale in 2005 (published in the UK by Freight Books in 2016, and in the US by St Martin's Press in 2017). It was also published in France as Le dactylograph de Mr James in 2012, which was shortlisted for the Prix Femina Etranger, and awarded the Prix de l'Union Interalliee. In 2009 he published Bodies Politic, which was short-listed for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize, and won the 2009 Herman Charles Bosman Award for English Fiction. His fifth novel, Lost Ground, was published in 2011, and was awarded both the Herman Charles Bosman award and the Sunday Times Prize for 2012. Invisible Furies was published in 2012, and A Sportful Malice in 2014. The latter novel won the Herman Charles Bosman Award for English Fiction. His eighth novel, I am Pandarus, was published in 2017, and A Poor Season for Whales in 2020. His tenth novel, Each Mortal Thing was published by Umuzi in 2023.
In 2006 Michiel translated two works by Marlene van Niekerk, Agaat and Memorandum. Agaat was awarded the Sunday Times Fiction Prize for 2006; published as The
Way of the Women
in the UK in November 2007, it was short-listed for the Independent
Foreign Fiction Prize, and was shortlisted for the Best
Translated Book Award in the US. This translation won the English
Academy's Sol Plaatje Award for Translating (2008) as well as the South
African Translators' Institute Award for a Literary Translation. He has also translated Equatoria by Tom Dreyer, published by Aflame Books (UK, 2008). His translation of Etienne van Heerden's 30 Nights in
Amsterdam was published early in 2011, and his translation of Chris Barnard's Bundu
later that year. This novel, in its translated form, was was
short-listed for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2013. He
translated Eben Venter's novel, Wolf, Wolf (published 2013, shortlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize), and Ingrid Winterbach's It Might Get Loud (2015) and The Shallows (2017) as well as The Troubled Times of Magrieta Prinsloo (2019). Also in 2019 he translated Elsa Joubert's Cul de Sac. His translation of Willem Anker's Red Dog was published in South Africa in 2018, and won the SALA Prize for the Literary Translation
as well as the University of Johannesburg Prize for Literary
Translation. In the UK it was published by Pushkin Press in 2019, and
was longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize. The translation
of Lodewyk du PLessis' The Dao of Daniel was published in 2022, and SJ Naude's Of Fathers and Fugitives in 2023.
Michiel reviewed regularly for the Sunday Independent, for which he was awarded the English Academy's Pringle Prize for Reviewing for 2006 and again for 2010.