In Memory of Prof. Mark Behr (1963-2015)

a middle-aged bald white man leaning out of a window while holding a book
Mark Behr of the Department of English

Mark Behr, an internationally acclaimed novelist and professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Rhodes College, passed away Friday, Nov. 27, in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the age of 52, 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). The book garnered significant recognition in the form of the M-Net Award, one of South Africa's most prestigious literary prizes, as well as the Eugene Marais and the CNA Debut Literary Awards in South Africa, and the Betty Trask Award for the best first novel published in the United Kingdom. The novel was also short-listed for both the Steinbeck and Guardian Literary Awards. In 1997 the novel received the Art Seidenbaum Award from the Los Angeles Times.

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 honors degrees at Stellenbosch University in South Africa in the late 1980s, and three master’s degrees at University of Notre Dame in the United States, finishing the last in 2000. In addition to teaching at Rhodes, Behr previously taught in the M.A. program at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and at the College of Santa Fe in New Mexico.

He was a beloved friend and colleague to so many, and Rhodes will host a memorial service Friday, Dec. 4, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the McCallum Ballroom. Stories, poetry, music, and memories will be shared at the memorial, which is open to the public.