“We have learned with sadness of the passing of this remarkable and highly regarded scholar and academic,” Zuma said in a statement.
Netwerk24 reported that Brink died on Friday night at the age of 79. He was aboard a flight from the Netherlands to Cape Town at the time. He was returning from Belgium, where he received an honorary doctorate.
According to SABC News, Brink’s family said he died after getting a blood clot in his leg.
Zuma said: “I wish to convey, our heartfelt condolences to his family and members of the academic and literary communities. May his soul rest in peace.”
NB Publishers, which published all of Brink’s Afrikaans novels under its Human & Rousseau imprint, earlier described praised Brink’s work.
“Andre was one of South Africa’s greatest writers, indeed one of the world’s great writers,” CEO Eloise Wessels said.
“His academic and literary achievements speak for themselves.”
Wessels said while Brink was making his acceptance speech at the University of Louvain earlier this week, he spoke about the necessity of continuously questioning everything.
She said in his speech, he spoke of moving “into the shadows of uncertainty” in the quest for answers.
“He said that the adventure of this search lay in not knowing whether one would find answers, and if there were indeed answers not knowing what they were,” she said.
“That is how he lived and that same search underpinned all his writing.”
Brink was a leading member of the Sestigers, a group of independent-minded Afrikaans writers who clashed repeatedly with the establishment.
His works were repeatedly banned. He was an outspoken critic of censorship, which he said was being used in South Africa not to protect religious or moral beliefs but as an extension of a repressive political apparatus.
Brink was born in Vrede, in the Free State, in 1935. He studied at Potchefstroom University and completed MAs in English and Afrikaans there.
Brink’s first Afrikaans novel, Die Meul Teen die Hang (1958) was followed by some 40 other publications, including novels, plays, travelogues and literary criticism, in Afrikaans.
His novels in English include Looking on Darkness (1974), An Instant in the Wind (1976), Rumours of Rain (1978), A Dry White Season (1979), A Chain of Voices (1983), The Wall of the Plague (1984), States of Emergency (1988), An Act of Terror (1991), The First Life of Adamastor (1993) and On the Contrary (1993).
His books have been published in 28 languages. He has also translated some 70 works from English, French, German and Spanish into Afrikaans.
He was shortlisted for the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982. The prize went to Latin American author Gabriel Garcia Marquez in that year.
He was also awarded the British Martin Luther King Memorial prize in 1980, the French Prix Medicis Etranger for foreign literature in 1980, and was made a chevalier of France’s Legion of Honour in 1982 in recognition of his contribution to French literature. This is the country’s top civilian award.