Peter Rudolf Gisela Horn was born 7 December 1934 in Teplice, Czechoslovakia (currently in Czech Republic). At the end of World War II he had to flee his home and settled with his parents first in Bavaria and later in Freiburg im Breisgau, where he completed high school in 1954. He then immigrated with his parents to South Africa.
After his study at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Transvaal (now Gauteng), he worked for some time as a packer, builder, lab assistant, photographer, insurance agent, and a teacher. He then taught at University of the Witwatersrand, the University of South Africa and the University of Zululand, Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal).
He was professor and head of department of German at the University of Cape Town (1974-1999). He served as Dean and Deputy Vice Chancellor, and was an Honorary Fellow of the University of Cape Town. He was an Honorary Professorial Research Associate at the University of the Witwatersrand.
He is a well-known South African poet, who made his mark especially with his anti-Apartheid poetry. During the eighties all his writing in English was banned for possession. Only in 1991 his collected poems 1964 -1990 could be published by Ravan Press. Because of his poetry he faced disciplinary hearings, threats of deportation, and even death threats. He was one of the founding members of Congress of South African Writers (COSAW) and served on the Western Cape regional and on the National Executive.
Professor Horn has published seven volumes of poetry. His poetry has appeared in many anthologies, journals and has been translated into many languages. He has also published a collection of short stories My voice is under control now.
He has received many prizes, among others the 1993 Alex La Guma/Bessie Head Award for My voice is under control now. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the University of Cape Town in 1994. In 2000 he was awarded the Charles Herman Bosman Prize for My voice is under control now.
Professor Horn was included as one of the ‘Top 10 contemporary poets of the world’
- Voices from the Gallows Trees. (Poems) Ophir (1969)
- Walking through our sleep. (Poems) Ravan Press (1974)
- Silence in Jail. (Poems: banned). Scribe Press (1979)
- The Civil War Cantos. (Poems: banned) Scribe Press (1987)
- Poems 1964 -1990. Johannesburg: Ravan (1991)
- An Axe in the Ice. Poems. Johannesburg: COSAW Publishing House 1992
- Derrire le vernis du soleil, pomes 1964-1989. Choisis et traduit de l’anglais sud-africain par Jacques Alavarez-Preyre. Dessins de Nils Burwitz. Paris: europePoesie (1993)
- The Rivers that Connect us to the Past. Survivors. Poems. Belville: Mayibuye Press 1996
- Poems. Translated into Bangla by Aminur Rahman. Montreal, Dhaka, London: SACAC, KATHAK 2003
Prizes and Honours:
- 1992 Noma Award: (Honourable Mention for Poems 1964-1989
- 1993 Alex La Guma/Bessie Head Award for The Kaffir who read Books (published as My Voice is under Control now)
- 2000 he was awarded the Charles Herman Bosman Prize for My Voice is under Control now
- 2000 he was a finalist for the Caine Prize for African Literature
- Served on the COSAW (Congress of South African Writers) Western Cape Executive (1988-1990) and the COSAW National Executive (1991 - 1992)
- Honorary Vice President NUSAS (1977-1981)
- Trustee of the South African Prisoners' Educational Trust Fund (1980-1985)
- Interim Committee of the Unemployed Workers' Movement (1984/5)