Breyten Breytenbach

Breyten Breytenbach
Celebrated poet, author, artist, essayist, and activist Breyten Breytenbach was born in 1939 in the Western Cape and studied Fine Arts at the University of Cape Town, before leaving the country in 1959. His literary debut Catastrophes (1964), a volume of stories, was followed by The Iron Cow Must Sweat . The latter was awarded the APB literary prize (one of over twenty prizes awarded over his career), which Breytenbach refused to receive after his wife, who was of Vietnamese origin, was denied a South African visa under the Apartheid government’s Mixed Marriages Act.

Breytenbach worked as political activist from the 1960s onwards, drawing international attention to the human rights violations and injustices of the Apartheid government, and collaborating closely with UNESCO and the ANC. In 1975, on an “illegal” visit to South Africa to make contacts with activists and trade unionists, he was arrested, charged under the Terrorism Act and jailed for seven years. Released from prison in 1982, due to massive international pressure, he left for Paris where he obtained French citizenship.

Breytenbach’s prison memoir, The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist (1983), is widely recognized as a South African classic and has been translated into several other languages.

In 1987, he helped to organize the historic Dakar Conference in Senegal where exiled ANC members met with influential South Africans to pave the way towards a democratic South Africa . Breytenbach, who was part of the team that started the Centre for Creative Arts, has also held numerous visiting professor posts, including University of Natal, Princeton University, New York University and the University of Cape Town, and has also been awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Cape Town and the University of Natal .

He co-founded and is currently the director of the Goree Institute. The institute aims to strengthen democratic processes, the autonomy of civil societies and cultural research and expression in Africa .

Breytenbach’s prison memoir, The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist (1983), is widely recognized as a South African classic and has been translated into several other languages.

Breyten Breytenbach reading New York September 12, 2001
© Breyten Breytenbach
Video © Marion Kelly

“Breytenbach’s writing… has always been marked by a combination of Kafkaesque scepticism and a celebration of life; images connect surreal worlds to the harsh and brutal realities of apartheid, magical realism to critical realism. His is not the direct ideological onslaught nor the quick and easy answer, but the delicate scalpel of a neurosurgeon constantly engaged in a search for the mad spots on the brain of the human species.” Douglas Killam and Ruth Rowe

Breyten Breytenbach reads for The Parlour Review

Selected Bibliography

A Veil of Footsteps, Human and Rousseau, 2008

Intimate Stranger, A Writing Book (Intieme Vreemde), Podium, 2006

Le coeur-chien. A travel memoir, Actes Sud, 2005

Die Ongedanste Dans, Human and Rousseau, 2005

Cadavre Exquis, Rodopi, 2005

Word Work ( Woordwerk ), Human and Rousseau, 1999

Die Toneelstuk, Human and Rousseau, 1999

Dog Heart . A travel memoir, Faber and Faber, 1998

The Memory of Birds in Times of Revolution, Harcourt,1996

Return to Paradise, Faber and Faber, 1992

All One Horse, Taurus,1989

Memory of Snow and of Dust, Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1987

The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1983

A Season in Paradise ( Een seizoen in het paradijs ), Perskor,1980

The Anthill Bloats… (Die miernes swel op…), Emmarentia, 1980

To Fly (Om te vlieg), Buren, 1971

Catastrophes (Katastrofes), Human and Rousseau,1964

Image and Text Time of the Writer Festival 2008

Breyten Breytenbach at Wikipedia

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