May 23, 2009
This from contemporary writers: One of South Africa’s most distinguished writers, André Brink was born in 1935. Poet, novelist, essayist and teacher, he began work as a University lecturer in Afrikaans and Dutch Literature in the 1960s. He began writing in Afrikaans, but when censored by the South African government, began to also write in English and became published overseas. He remains a key figure in the modernisation of the Afrikaans language novel.
His novel, A Dry White Season (1979), was made into a film starring Marlon Brando while An Instant in the Wind (1976), the story of a relationship between a white woman and a black man, and Rumours of Rain (1978) were both shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction. Devil’s Valley (1998) explores the life of a community locked away from the rest of the world, and The Other Side of Silence (2002), set in colonial Africa in the early twentieth century, won a Commonwealth Writers regional award for Best Book in 2003. He has also written a collection of essays on literature and politics, Reinventing a Continent (1996), prefaced by Nelson Mandela.
He is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Cape Town. His latest novels are Praying Mantis (2005) and The Blue Door (2007). His memoir, A Fork in the Road was published in 2009
I met Andre Brink at his home in Cape Town. (His lovely young wife Karina greeted me at the door and led me into his book-lined study).
Once seated we talked mostly about his life, about his father, about love and duty, justice, Apartheid, inter-racial sex, J.M. Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer; his love affair with poet Ingrid Jonker, her suicide, her poem ‘Plant me a Tree,’ English as his second language, Picasso, recommended wines and staying in South Africa despite his nephew having been shot dead by intruders at his home just north of Johannesburg.