Brink, André (Philippus) 1935-
BRINK, André (Philippus) 1935-
PERSONAL: Born May 29, 1935, in Vrede, Orange Free State, South Africa; son of Daniel (a magistrate) and Aletta (a teacher; maiden name, Wolmarans) Brink; married Estelle Naudé, October 3, 1951 (divorced); married Salomi Louw, November 28, 1965 (divorced); married Alta Miller (a potter), July 17, 1970 (divorced); married Marésa de Beer, November 16, 1990; children: (first marriage) Anton; (second marriage) Gustav; (third marriage) Danie, Sonja. Education: Potchefstroom University, B.A., 1955, M.A. (Afrikaans), 1958, M.A. (Afrikaans and Dutch), 1959; postgraduate study at Sorbonne, University of Paris, 1959-61.
ADDRESSES: Home—6 Banksia Rd., Rosebank, Cape Town 7700, South Africa. Office—Department of English, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7700, South Africa. Agent—Ruth Liepman, Maienburgweg 23, Zurich, Switzerland.
CAREER: Author. Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, lecturer, 1963-73, senior lecturer, 1974-75, associate professor, 1976-79, professor of Afrikaans and Dutch literature, 1980-90; University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa, professor of English, 1991—. Director of theatrical productions.
MEMBER: South African PEN, Afrikaans Writers' Guild (president, 1978-80).
AWARDS, HONORS: Reina Prinsen Geerligs prize, 1964; Central News Agency award for Afrikaans literature, 1965, for Olé, and for English literature, 1979, for Rumours of Rain, 1983, for A Chain of Voices; prize for prose translation from South African Academy, 1970, for Alice se Avonture in Wonderland, and 1982; D.Litt., Rhodes University, 1975, Witwatersrand University, 1985, and University of the Orange Free State, 1997; Central News Agency award for English literature, 1978, for Rumours of Rain; Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Prize and Prix Médicis Étranger, both 1980, both for A Dry White Season; named chevalier de Legion d' Honneur and officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, promoted to commandeur, 1992; Premio Mondello, 1997, for Imaginings of Sand; honorary doctorate, Rhodes University, 2001.
Die meul teen die hang, Tafelberg (Cape Town, South Africa), 1958.
Die gebondenes, Afrikaanse Pers (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1959.
Die eindelose weë, Tafelberg (Cape Town, South Africa), 1960.
Lobola vir die lewe (title means "Dowry for Life"), Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1962
Die Ambassadeur, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1963, translated by Brink as File on a Diplomat, Longmans, Green (London, England), 1965, revised translation published as The Ambassador, Faber (New York, NY), 1985.
Orgie, John Malherbe (Cape Town, South Africa), 1965.
(With others) Rooi, Malherbe (Cape Town, South Africa), 1965.
Miskien nooit: 'n Somerspel, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1967.
A Portrait of Woman as a Young Girl, Buren (Cape Town, South Africa), 1973.
Oom Kootjie Emmer (short stories), Buren (Cape Town, South Africa), 1973.
Kennis van die aand (novel), Buren (Cape Town, South Africa), 1973, translated by Brink as Lookingon Darkness, W. H. Allen (London, England), 1974, Morrow (New York, NY), 1975.
Die Geskiedenis van oom Kootjie Emmer van Witgratworteldraai, Buren (Cape Town, South Africa), 1973.
'n Oomblik in die wind, Taurus, 1975, translated as An Instant in the Wind, W. H. Allen (London, England), 1976, Morrow (New York, NY), 1977.
Gerugte van Reen (novel), Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1978, translated as Rumours of Rain, Morrow (New York, NY), 1978, published as Rumors of Rain, Penguin (New York, NY), 1984,
'n Droe wit seisoen, Taurus, 1979, translated as A Dry White Season, W. H. Allen (London, England), 1979, Morrow (New York, NY), 1980.
'n Emmertjie wyn: 'n versameling dopstories, Saayman & Weber (Cape Town, South Africa), 1981.
Houd-den-bek (title means "Shut Your Trap"), Taurus, 1982, translated as A Chain of Voices, Morrow (New York, NY), 1982.
Oom Kootjie Emmer en die nuwe bedeling: 'n stinkstorie, Taurus (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1983.
Die Muur van die pes, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1984, translated as The Wall of the Plague, Summit (New York, NY), 1984.
Loopdoppies: Nog dopstories, Saayman & Weber (Cape Town, South Africa), 1984.
States of Emergency, Penguin, 1988, Summit (New York, NY), 1989.
Die Eerste lewe van Adamastor, Saayman & Weber (Cape Town, South Africa), 1988, translated as Cape of Storms: The First Life of Adamastor: A Story (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1993, published as The First Life of Adamastor, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1993.
Mal en ander stories: 'n omnibus van humor, three volumes, Saayman & Weber (Cape Town, South Africa), 1990.
Die kreef raak gewoond daaraan, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1991.
An Act of Terror, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1991, Summit (New York, NY), 1992.
Inteendeel, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1993.
On the Contrary: A Novel: Being the Life of a Famous Rebel, Soldier, Traveler, Explorer, Reader, Builder, Scribe, Latinist, Lover, and Liar, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1993.
Sandkastele, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1995, translated as Imaginings of Sand, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1996.
Duiwelskloof, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1998, translated as Devil's Valley, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1999.
Donkermaan, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 2000, translated as The Rights of Desire, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 2000, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2001.
The Other Side of Silence, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2002.
Die band om ons harte (title means "The Bond around Our Hearts"), Afrikaanse Pers (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1959.
Caesar (first produced at Stellenbosch, Cape Province, 1965), Nasionale Boekhandel (Capetown, South Africa), 1961.
(With others) Die beskermengel en ander eenbedrywe (title means "The Guardian Angel and Other One-Act Plays"), Tafelberg (Cape Town, South Africa), 1962.
Bagasie: Triptiek vir die toneel (contains Die koffer, Die trommel, and Die tas; first produced in Pretoria, South Africa, 1965), Tafelberg (Cape Town, South Africa), 1964.
Elders mooiweer en warm (three-act play; title means "Elsewhere Fine and Warm"; first produced in Bloemfontein, South Africa, 1970), John Malherbe, 1965.
Die Rebelle: Betoogstuk in nege episodes (title means "The Rebels"), Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1970.
Die verhoor: Verhoogstuk in drie bedrywe (first produced in Pretoria, South Africa, 1975), Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1970.
Kinkels innie kabel: 'n verhoogstuk in elf episodes (adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing; title means "Knots in the Cable"), Buren (Cape Town, South Africa), 1971.
Afrikaners is plesierig (two one-act plays; title means "Afrikaners Make Merry"), Buren (Cape Town, South Africa), 1973.
Bobaas van die Boendoe (adaptation of Synge's Playboy of the Western World; first produced in Bloemfontein, South Africa, 1974), Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1974.
Pavane (three-act play; first produced in Cape Town, 1974), Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1974.
Die hamer van die hekse (title means "The Hammer and the Witches"), Tafelberg (Cape Town, South Africa), 1976.
Toiings op die langpad (title means "Toiings on the Long Road"), Van Schaik (Pretoria, South Africa), 1979.
Die Jogger, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1997.
Die bende (title means "The Gang"), Afrikaanse Pers (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1961.
Platsak (title means "Broke"), Afrikaanse Pers (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1962.
LITERARY HISTORY AND CRITICISM
Orde en chaos: 'n studie oor Germanicus en die tragedies van Shakespeare, Nasionale Boekhandel (Cape Town, South Africa), 1962.
Aspekte van die nuwe prosa (title means "Aspects of the New Fiction"), Academica (Pretoria, South Africa), 1967, revised edition, 1975.
Die Poësie van Breyten Breytenbach, Academica (Pretoria, South Africa), 1971.
Inleiding tot die Afrikaanse letterkunde, onder Redaksie van E. Lindenberg, Academica (Pretoria, South Africa), 1973.
Aspekte van die nuwe Drama (title means "Aspects of the New Drama"), Academica (Pretoria, South Africa), 1974.
Voorlopige Rapport: Beskouings oor die Afrikaanse Literatuur van Sewentig (title means "Preliminary Report: Views on Afrikaans Literature in the 1970s"), Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1976.
Tweede voorlopige Rapport: Nog beskouings oor die Afrikaanse Literature van sewentig (title means "Second Preliminary Report"), Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1980.
Why Literature?/Waarom literatuur? (essays), Rhodes University (Grahamstown, South Africa), 1980.
(With others) Perspektief en profiel: 'n geskiedinis van die Afrikaanse letterkunde, Perskor, 1982.
Literatuur in die strydperk (essays; title means "Literature in the Arena"), Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1985.
Vertelkunde: 'n inleiding tot die lees van verhalende tekste, Academica (Pretoria, South Africa), 1987.
The Novel: Language and Narrative from Cervantes to Calvino, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Pierre Boulle, Die Brug oor die rivier Kwaï, Tafelberg (Cape Town, South Africa), 1962.
André Dhôtel, Reisigers na die Groot Land, Tafelberg (Cape Town, South Africa), 1962.
Joseph Kessel, Die Wonderhande, HAUM (Cape Town, South Africa), 1962.
L. N. Lavolle, Nuno, die Visserseun, HAUM (Cape Town, South Africa), 1962.
Léonce Bourliaguet, Verhale uit Limousin, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1963.
Léonce Bourliaguet, Die slapende Berg, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1963.
Leonard Cottrell, Land van die Farao's, Malherbe (Cape Town, South Africa), 1963.
Michel Rouzé, Die Bos van Kokelunde, Malherbe (Cape Town, South Africa), 1963.
Marguerite Duras, Moderato Cantabile, HAUM (Cape Town, South Africa), 1963.
Paul-Jacques Bonzon, Die Goue kruis, Malherbe (Cape Town, South Africa), 1963.
Leonard Cottrell, Land van die Twee Riviere, Malherbe (Cape Town, South Africa), 1964.
C. M. Turnbull, Volke van Afrika, Malherbe (Cape Town, South Africa), 1964.
Lewis Carroll, Alice se Avonture in Wonderland, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1965.
Die mooiste verhale uit die Arabiese Nagte, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1966.
James Reeves, Die Avonture van Don Quixote, HAUM (Cape Town, South Africa), 1966.
Elyesa Bazna, Ek was Cicero, Afrikaanse Pers (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1966.
Jean de Brunhoff, Koning Babar, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1966.
Colette, Die Swerfling, Afrikaanse Pers (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1966.
Miguel Cervantes, Die vindingryke ridder, Don Quijote de la Mancha, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1966.
Simenon, Speuder Maigret, Maigret en sy Dooie, Maigret en die Lang Derm, and Maigret en die Spook, four volumes, Afrikaanse Pers (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1966-69.
Charles Perrault, Die mooiste Sprokies van Moeder Gans, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1967.
Ester Wier, Die Eenspaaier, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1967.
Graham Greene, Die Eendstert, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1967. P. L. Travers, Mary Poppins in Kersieboomlaan, Malherbe (Cape Town, South Africa), 1967.
C. S. Lewis, Die Leeu, die Heks en die Hangkas, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1967.
(With others) Die groot Boek oor ons Dieremaats, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1968.
(With others) Koning Arthur en sy Ridders van die Ronde Tafel, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1968.
Lucy Boston, Die Kinders van Groenkop, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1968.
Lewis Carroll, Alice deur die Spieël, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1968.
Ian Serraillier, Die Botsende rotse, Die Horing van Ivoor, and Die Kop van de Gorgoon, four volumes, HAUM (Cape Town, South Africa), 1968.
Dhan Gopal Mukerji, Bontnek, HAUM (Cape Town, South Africa), 1968.
Henry James, Die Draai van die Skroef, Afrikaanse Pers (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1968.
Oscar Wilde, Die Gelukkige Prins en ander Sprokies, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1969.
Charles Perrault, Die Gestewelde kat, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1969.
Pearl S. Buck, Die groot Golf, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1969.
Hans Christian Andersen, Die Nagtegaal, HAUM (Cape Town, South Africa), 1969.
Albert Camus, Die Terroriste, Dramatiese Artistieke en Letterkundige Organisasie (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1970.
Michel de Ghelderode, Eskoriaal, Dramatiese Artistieke en Letterkundige Organisasie (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1971.
Nada Curcija-Prodanovic, Ballerina, Malherbe (Cape Town, South Africa), 1972.
Anton Chekhov, Die Seemeeu, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1972.
Synge, Die Bobaas van die Boendoe, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1973.
Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seemeeu, Malherbe (Cape Town, South Africa), 1973.
Henrik Ibsen, Hedda Gabler, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1974.
Kenneth Grahame, Die Wind in die Wilgers, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1974.
William Shakespeare, Die Tragedie van Romeo en Juliet, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1975.
Claude Desailly, Die Tierbrigade, Tafelberg (Cape Town, South Africa), 1978.
Claude Desailly, Nuwe Avontuur van die Tierbrigade, Tafelberg (Cape Town, South Africa), 1979.
Oscar Wilde, Die Nagtegaal en die Roos, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1980.
Kenneth Grahame, Rot op Reis, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1981.
Elizabeth Janet Gray, Adam van die Pad, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1981.
Charles Perrault, Klein Duimpie, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1983.
Pot-pourri: Sketse uit Parys (travelogue; title means "Pot-pourrie: Sketches from Paris"), Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1962.
Sèmpre diritto: Italiaanse reisjoernaal (travelogue; title means "Always Straight Ahead: Italian Travel Journal"), Afrikaanse Pers (Johannesburg, South Africa), 1963.
Olé: Reisboek oor Spanje (travelogue; title means "Olé: A Travel Book on Spain"), Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1966.
Midi: Op reis deur Suld-Frankyrk (travelogue; title means "Midi: Traveling through the South of France"), Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1969.
Parys-Parys: Return, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1969.
Fado: 'n reis deur Noord-Portugal (travelogue; title means "Fado: A Journey through Northern Portugal"), Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1970.
Portret van di vrou as 'n meisie (title means "Portrait of Woman as a Young Girl"), Buren (Cape Town, South Africa), 1973.
Brandewyn in Suid-Afrika, Buren (Cape Town, South Africa), 1974, translated by Siegfried Stander as Brandy in South Africa, 1974.
Dessertwyn in Suid-Afrika, Buren (Cape Town, South Africa), 1974, translated as Dessert Wine in South Africa, 1974.
(With others) Ik ben er geweest: Gesprekken in Zuid-Afrika (title means "I've Been There: Conversations in South Africa"), Kok (Kampen, South Africa), 1974.
Die Wyn van bowe (title means "The Wine from up There"), Buren (Cape Town, South Africa), 1974.
Die Klap van die meul (title means "A Stroke from the Mill"), Buren (Cape Town, South Africa), 1974.
Jan Rabie se 21, Academica (Cape Town, South Africa), 1977.
(Editor) Oggendlied: 'n bundel vir Uys Krige op sy verjaardag 4 Februarie 1977, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1977.
(Editor) Top Naeff, Klein Avontuur, Academica (Pretoria, South Africa), 1979.
Heildronk uit Wynboer Saamgestel deur AB ter viering van die Blad se 50ste bestaansjaar, Tafelberg (Cape Town, South Africa), 1981.
Die Fees van die Malles: 'n keur uit die humor, Saayman & Weber (Cape Town, South Africa), 1981.
Mapmakers: Writing in a State of Siege (essays), Faber (New York, NY), 1983, revised edition published as Writing in a State of Siege: Essays on Politics and Literature, Summit (New York, NY), 1983.
(Editor with J. M. Coetzee) A Land Apart: A South African Reader, Faber (London, England), 1986, Viking (New York, NY), 1987.
Latynse reise: 'n keur uit die reisbeskrywings van André P. Brink, Human & Rousseau (Cape Town, South Africa), 1990.
The Essence of the Grape, Saayman & Weber (Cape Town, South Africa), 1993.
(Compiler) SA, 27 April 1994: An Author's Diary, Queillerie (Pretoria, South Africa), 1994.
(Compiler) 27 April: One Year Later/Een Jaar later, Queillerie (Pretoria, South Africa), 1995.
Reinventing a Continent: Writing and Politics in South Africa (essays), Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1996, revised edition, preface by Nelson Mandela, Zoland Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Destabilising Shakespeare, Shakespeare Society of Southern Africa (Grahamstown, South Africa), 1996.
(Compiler) Groot Verseboek 2000, Tafelberg (Cape Town, South Africa), 2000.
Jan Vermeiren: A Flemish Artist in South Africa, Lanoo (Tielt, South Africa), 2000.
Author of scenarios for South African films and television series, including The Settlers. Contributor to books on Afrikaans literature and to periodicals, including World Literature Today, Asahi Journal, and Theatre Quarterly. Editor of Sestiger magazine, 1963-65; editor of Standpunte, 1986-87; editor of weekly book page in Rapport.
Brink's manuscripts are housed at the University of the Orange Free State, Bloemfontein, and the National English Literary Museum, Grahamstown, South Africa.
ADAPTATIONS: A Dry White Season was adapted for film by Euzhan Palcy and Colin Welland, directed by Palcy, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1989.
SIDELIGHTS: As an Afrikaner, novelist, playwright, essayist, and educator André Brink is "a rarity in anti-apartheid literature," Scott Kraft stated in the Los Angeles Times. A product of his country's exclusionary white culture, Brink repudiated its policies of apartheid during his studies in Paris in 1960 but was drawn back to the land of his birth to witness and record its turmoil and injustice. Earning both international recognition and governmental censure for his work in the years that followed, "Brink is one of the leading voices in the literary chorus of dissent, and for two decades his tales of black hope and white repression have shamed the nation," remarked Curt Suplee in the Washington Post.
Brink writes in both English and Afrikaans, the latter a language derived from that spoken by South Africa's seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Dutch, French, and German settlers. In an interview with Contemporary Authors, (CA) Brink once noted: "There is a certain virility, a certain earthy, youthful quality about Afrikaans because it is such a young language, and because, although derived from an old European language like Dutch, it has found completely new roots in Africa and become totally Africanized in the process. . . . One can do almost anything with it. If you haven't got a word for something you want to express, you simply make a word or pluck a word from another language and shape it to fit into yours. Working in this young and very vital language is quite exhilarating, which creates a very special sense of adventure for authors working in it. And if one works in both languages, there is the wonderful experience of approaching the same subject, the same territory, through two totally different media. One is the more or less rigorous English language, the world language, and although one can still do a hell of a lot of new things in it, so much of it has already become standardized: it's almost as if one looks at the African experience through European eyes when one writes English. Through the Afrikaans language, it is a totally different, a more 'immediate,' experience. It's a language that can take much more emotionalism, for instance, whereas English tends toward understatement, Afrikaans is more overt, more externalized, more extroverted in its approach."
Brink translated his 1963 novel Die Ambassadeur from Afrikaans into English. Published in England as File on a Diplomat, and in the United States as The Ambassador, the novel relates a story about a French ambassador to South Africa and his third secretary who become involved with the same young, promiscuous female and are drawn into the wild nightlife of Paris until jealousy destroys them both, reported Savkar Altinel in a Times Literary Supplement essay. Fred Pfeil suggested in a Nation review that the novel "sets forth Brink's vision of sexual-existential liberation with nary a nod toward any political considerations." Altinel called the novel "an elegantly tidy creation which, with its trinity of somewhat stylized central characters and its economically evoked setting, seems very much the unified product of a powerful initial vision." In a London Times review of the revised version of the novel in 1985, Henry Stanhope wrote that, despite "something ever so slightly dated about it," The Ambassador "remains a good book, intelligent in its exploration of human behaviour under emotional and political stress."
"In 1968 I left South Africa to settle in Paris with the exiled poet Breyten Breytenbach," Brink once explained to CA, "but the nature of the student revolt of that year forced me to reassess my situation as a writer and prompted my return to South Africa in order to accept full responsibility for whatever I wrote, believing that, in a closed society, the writer has a specific social and moral role to fill. This resulted in a more committed form of writing exploring the South African political situation and notably my revulsion of apartheid. My first novel to emerge from this experience was Kennis van die aand, which became the first Afrikaans book to be banned by the South African censors. This encouraged me to turn seriously to writing in English in order not to be silenced in my own language. Under the title Looking on Darkness, it became an international success, with translations into a dozen languages, including Finnish, Turkish, Japanese, Czechoslovakian, and Russian."
In Brink's Looking on Darkness, protagonist Joseph Malan murders his white lover, Jessica Thomson, in a mutual pact and then sits in jail, awaiting execution. Calling the 1973 novel "ambitious and disturbing," Jane Larkin Crain concluded in the Saturday Review that "a passionately human vision rules here, informed by an imagination that is attuned at once to complex and important abstractions and to the rhythms and the texture of everyday experience." Noting that the "novel is structured in the form of a confessional," Martin Tucker added in Commonweal that its style "is compelling: it is a work that throbs with personal intensity." Because of the novel's explicit treatment of sex, racism, persecution, and the torture of political prisoners in South African jails, C. J. Driver suggested in the Times Literary Supplement that it is not difficult to understand why it was banned; however, Driver concluded that "within its context this is a brave and important novel and in any terms a fine one."
Publication of Looking on Darkness in Europe coincided with the Soweto riots of 1976, and the novel became something of a handbook on the South African situation. Regarding racism generally, Brink once told CA: "America seems to be slowly working its way through racism; whereas in South Africa it is entrenched in the whole system and framework of laws on which society has had its base. It is not just a matter of sentiment, of personal resentment, of tradition and custom, but these negative aspects of society are so firmly rooted in the framework of laws that it is very, very difficult to eradicate. Looking on Darkness elicited much comment because it is one of the first Afrikaans novels to confront openly the apartheid system. This account of an illicit love between a 'Cape Coloured' man and a white woman evoked, on the one hand, one of the fiercest polemics in the history of that country's literature and contributed, on the other, to a groundswell of new awareness among white Afrikaners of the common humanity of all people regardless of color. In numerous letters from readers I was told that for the first time in my life I now realize that 'they' feel and think and react just like 'us.'"
"In An Instant in the Wind," Brink once explained to CA, "I used essentially the same relationship—a black man and a white woman—but placed it in the midst of the eighteenth century in an attempt to probe the origins of the racial tensions of today. An episode from Australian history in which a shipwrecked woman and a convict return to civilization on foot is here transposed to the Cape Colony with so much verisimilitude that many readers have tried to look up the documentation in the Cape Archives." In the Spectator, Nick Totten described the plot further: "A civilised woman, her husband dead, is lost in the wilderness . . . rescued by an escaped black prisoner . . . with whom she experiences for the first time fulfilled sexual love, but whom she betrays after the long trek back to civilisation." Calling it "a frank confrontation with miscegenation in a contemporary South African setting," Robert L. Berner commented in World Literature Today: "What Brink has produced is a historical novel with an almost documentary degree of verisimilitude. . . . But more than for its interest as evidence of Brink's artistic development, it is the recognition of the relationship of sex to politics that makes An Instant in the Wind a remarkable work of South African literature." R. A. Sokolov suggested in the New York Times Book Review that "it is important for political reasons that Brink should be published, but doubtful on the evidence of this book that he will be read for his art as a writer." Richard Cima contended in Library Journal that "the subject is important and the novelistic achievement impressive."
"Rumours of Rain, set on the eve of the Soweto riots, is placed on a much larger stage," Brink once remarked to CA about his 1978 novel. "The apartheid mind is demonstrated in the account given by a wealthy businessman of the one weekend in which his whole familiar world collapsed through the conviction of his best friend for terrorism, the revolt of his son, the loss of his mistress, and the sale of his family's farm. In spite of his efforts to rigorously separate all the elements of his life, he becomes the victim of his own paradoxes and faces an apocalypse." The novel is about Martin Mynhardt, a mining entrepreneur, whose "only principles are money and safety," observed Phoebe-Lou Adams in the Atlantic, "and for them he betrays friend, colleague, brother, mother, wife, and mistress, and will eventually betray his son." According to C. G. Blewitt in Best Sellers, "Much insight is shed on the life of the Afrikaner, his judicial system and the horrors of apartheid." Similarly, Daphne Merkin commented in New Republic that "Brink has taken a large, ideologically-charged premise and proceeds to render it in intimate terms without . . . sacrificing any of its hard-edged 'political' implications." Moreover, Merkin believed that the book "is an ambitious resonant novel that depicts a volatile situation with remarkable control and lack of sentimentality."
"In comparison with the complex structures" of Rumours of Rain, Brink once commented to CA that his A Dry White Season "has a deceptively simple plot: a black man dies while being detained by the security police. In all good faith his white friend tries to find out what really happened, and as a result the whole infernal machinery of the State is turned against him." According to June Goodwin in the Christian Science Monitor, "Few novels will speak to the Afrikaner—or to foreigners who want to understand the Afrikaner—as well as this one." A Dry White Season is about Afrikaner Ben Du Toit, who helps a black school janitor investigate the questionable circumstances surrounding the death of his son at the hands of the police. Mel Watkins, in a New York Times Book Review essay, found that the novel "demonstrates André Brink's continuing refinement of his fictional technique, without sacrificing any of the poignancy that his previous books have led us to expect."
"Brink's writing is built on conviction," remarked Dinah Birch in the London Times. "His characters move in a world of absolutes: goodness and truth war with cruelty and greed, and the reader is never left in any doubt as to which is which." Although not considering Brink "a 'great' writer," Eric Redman pointed out in the Washington Post Book World that "he's an urgent, political one and an Afrikaner other Afrikaners can't ignore." Moreover, noting that "big books have sparked change throughout South Africa's recent history," Redman observed that "this much is certain: the era of the trivial South African novel is dead, and courage killed it." Remarking to CA that the novel was begun "almost a year before the death in detention of black-consciousness leader Steve Biko in 1976," Brink added: "In fact, the death of Biko came as such a shock to me that for a long time I couldn't go back to writing. I believe that however outraged or disturbed one may be, a state of inner serenity must be obtained before anything meaningful can emerge in writing."
Brink went on to add that in 1982's A Chain of Voices he worked to "extend and expand my field of vision. Using as a point of departure a slave revolt in the Cape Colony in 1825, I used a series of thirty different narrators to explore the relationships created by a society shaped by the forces of oppression and suffering. The 'separateness' of the voices haunted me; masters and slaves, all tied by the same chains, are totally unable to communicate because their humanity and their individuality are denied by the system they live by. I tried to broaden and deepen the enquiry by relating the voices, in four successive sections, to the elements of earth, water, wind, and fire."
Many critics consider A Chain of Voices to be Brink's best work to date. Suplee labeled it "an incendiary success abroad and a galling phenomenon at home." According to Julian Moynahan in the New York Times Book Review, "Like all good historical novels, [it] is as much about the present as the past. . . . Brink searches the bad old times for a key to understanding bad times in South Africa today, and what he sees in the historical record is always conditioned by his awareness of the South African racial crisis now." However, while Jane Kramer suggested in the New York Review of Books that "Brink may have an honorable imagination," she believed that "he has written a potboiler of oppression" in which the "voices" of the novel "end up more caricature than character." On the other hand, Moynahan compared the device of telling a story from multiple viewpoints to the novels of William Faulkner in which he "counts the moral cost of white racism, both before and after Emancipation, in terms of the tragic spoliation of all relationships, not merely those between white oppressors and their non-white or partially white victims."
In States of Emergency Brink tells a story within a story. A writer's attempt to compose an apolitical love story is marred by the reality of racism, violence, and death. When the narrator receives an impressive but unpublishable manuscript from Jane Ferguson, a young writer who subsequently commits suicide by setting herself on fire, he abandons the historical novel he has been writing about South Africa and begins to compose a love story based on Ferguson's manuscript. The novel he writes is centered around a professor of literary theory and a student with whom he has an affair. According to a Publishers Weekly contributor, Brink "demonstrates that neither love nor art offers an escape; even the imagination is determined by political realities." Finding intensity between "reality and the author's idea of just what reality best suits his characters," Alfred Rushton commented in the Toronto Globe and Mail that the reader becomes aware that "no writer owns his or her characters, just as the state doesn't own people no matter what method is used to justify the attempt."
Not all critics responded positively to States of Emergency. For example, Los Angeles Times book critic Richard Eder suggested that "it is one thing for contemporary theory to come in afterward and argue that the fiction we have read tells us not about real characters but only about how its text was created. It is another for this reductivism to be applied in the moment of creation. It is literary contraception; nothing emerges alive." However, calling the novel "complicated and forceful" as well as "richly developed," Michael Wood maintained in the London Observer that Brink "does depict, with great compassion and authority, the 'weight and madness of the violence' surrounding individuals." And Rushton concluded that the novelist "also successfully challenges those people, writers and artists included, who persist in believing reason will somehow prevail over passion."
In An Act of Terror Brink portrays the political tension in South Africa in 1988, a particularly brutal period of police repression. The narrative centers on Thomas Landman, a member of a guerrilla group of blacks and whites who are planning to assassinate the president. When the plan fails, Landman seeks to escape from the police, and revisits the scenes of his past life. Reviewers found much to praise in the work. Adam Hochschild wrote in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, "the meal that Brink cooks up is an intricate, fast-moving story that succeeds in keeping us at the table for more than 600 pages of this 834-page behemoth of a book." Nation contributor Jenefer Shute similarly praised the novel's ambition, asserting that An Act of Terror "soars in its aspiration, its revised creation myth for a race 'conceived and born in lies,' its hope for a history that might open out instead of shutting down." Several critics, however, judge that the novel's lengthy, oratorical conclusion, in which Landman chronicles his family's presence in South Africa from the first Dutch settlers in the seventeenth century to the present day, compromises the work as a whole. Hochschild maintained that "Brink's skill as a storyteller collapses" in this "interminable" chronicle. Similarly, Randolph Vigne, commenting in the San Francisco Review of Books, characterized the conclusion as "a heavy dose of cheap magazine fiction."
Brink returned to historical fiction in his next two novels, Cape of Storms: The First Life of Adamastor and On the Contrary. In the first of these works, Brink draws on Greek mythology and Renaissance European literature to shape an allegorical commentary on the colonial history of southern Africa. The novel is narrated by T'kama, a Khoi who witnesses the arrival of the first Europeans and inadvertently precipitates an attack on his people by frightening a white woman who has come ashore to bathe. Despite the humorous style of the novel, Brink told Laurel Graeber in the New York Times Book Review that "under the humor there's a deep and serious concern with the origins of racial animosities in South Africa and everywhere." In reviewing the novel for that same publication, Mario Vargas Llosa echoed this concern, asserting that "however much we enjoy reading the book, André Brink's beautiful mythological re-creation leaves us anguished over what appear to be its predictions regarding a society where, after a bloody past of injustice and institutionalized racism, different races and cultures are finally preparing to try co-existence under conditions of equality."
In On the Contrary Brink again concentrates on the racial tensions of early South Africa by telling the story of the historical figure Estienne Barbier, who immigrated from France to South Africa in the eighteenth century and who was executed by the Dutch East India Company for his role in fomenting rebellion in the Cape in 1739. The novel is presented as a single letter—comprising over three hundred sections interweaving fact and fantasy—that is written to a slavegirl on the eve of the protagonist's execution. Critics gave the work a mixed reception. New York Times Book Review contributor Peter S. Prescott, for example, maintained that while the novel is "ambitious and imaginative," it nevertheless suffers from a "serious confusion of styles" and a lack of humor and wit. Boyd Tomkin, writing in the Observer, noted that "though he conjures up the sun-dried veldt, Brink's prose gorges on a lush glut of ideas. It leaves its readers as drunk as its hero, addled but inspired."
Brink returns to contemporary political concerns with his 1996 novel Imaginings of Sand. This work concentrates on the experiences of Kristien, a disaffected Afrikaner who living in self-imposed exile in England returns to her native land to care for her dying grandmother during the elections that ultimately bring an end to the apartheid system. Critics were divided in their assessment of Brink's handling of female characters in this work. Spectator reviewer Barbara Trapido asserted that the main character, "who is offered to the reader as the spirit of defiance, a left-hander, a 'witch,' never really rises above drag act and disappoints with her ordinariness." Amanda Hopkinson maintained in the New Statesman, however, that "Brink raises even familiar feminist issues in intelligent ways." Similarly, the quality of the writing itself elicited conflicting responses. Hopkinson found Brink's style "varied and highly accomplished," while New York Times reviewer Richard Bernstein characterized Imaginings of Sand as "a ramshackle, muddled work always threatening to blow apart by virtue of its very extravagance." Washington Times contributor Martin Rubin described the work as Brink's "finest achievement yet. . . . More substantial than Nadine Gordimer's recent novels and more authentically rooted in myth than J. M. Coetzee's work." Alan Cheuse offered similar praise in his review for the Chicago Tribune, contending that "Brink presents his kinsmen in the patterns and rhythms of myth and legend, sometimes employing the techniques of magical realism, thus making his novel seem thoroughly African in texture and effect."
Devil's Valley concerns a group of Afrikaner settlers who have been isolated from the rest of the world for some 150 years. Their remote valley is difficult and dangerous for outsiders to visit, while those who leave the valley and talk too much tend to die mysteriously. When crime reporter Flip Lochner finds his way to Devil's Valley, the insular community begins to fall apart. According to Lorna Sage, reviewing the book for the New York Times, Devil's Valley "stages a ritual resurrection and reburial of the Afrikaner past."
Translated as The Rights of Desire, Donkermaan is a novel about a May-December romance. Ruben Olivier is an aging former librarian who lost his job to a black man after South Africa's white government fell from power. He has retreated into his home, listening to classical music, reading books, and contemplating his life, which includes the loss of his wife in an accident. Olivier's children, who have moved out of the country, urge him to leave, too. Barring that, they ask him to take on a boarder so that there is someone else in the house with him. Ruben takes their advice and brings a young woman named Tessa Butler into his home. Tessa, who seems to be in some sort of trouble and is in need of a place to stay, is a rather radical figure in Ruben's life. She smokes dope, is promiscuous, and even flirts with Ruben. The two form a bond that is linked in interesting conversations—not just sexual tensions—and Tessa's unique perspective on life forces Ruben to reexamine his past, including his political beliefs, and realize that he is not the man he has convinced himself he is. Into this tale, Brink also throws in Ruben's maid, Margrieta Daniels, whose keen sensibilities prevent Ruben from getting away with anything, even in his own house, and Antje of Bengal, the ghost of a woman who was a slave and accomplice to murder, who was executed for her crime.
While calling The Rights of Desire "probably the most intimate one Brink has ever written," Ludo Stynen commented in World Literature Today that the author "makes it very clear that writing without politics is impossible as far as he is concerned." The politics of living in South Africa seep into the story inevitably. Stynen added, "Reminiscences and fragments of other texts, historical facts and fiction, the mystery element, and the in fact predictably unpredictable woman make the work an unmistakable Brink novel. It is a well-told story and a valuable contribution to the social debate." Other reviewers, commenting on The Rights of Desire, did not rank it with Brink's best efforts. Edward B. St. John, for example, commented in Library Journal that "this novel is essentially an oldfashioned and somewhat predictable May-December romance." A Publishers Weekly reviewer similarly felt the novel "isn't Brink's best effort"; however, the critic went on to praise Brink as "a consummately professional storyteller, and the voice of his narrator, with its subtle wit and vulnerability, is a welcome one."
In the 2002 novel The Other Side of Silence Brink pens an indictment of colonialism and sexism in German South-West Africa, which is modern-day Nambia. Set in the early 1900s, the novel tells the story of Hanna X, an orphan whose ultimate life journey is one of degradation and violence. The first part of the novel focuses on Hanna's life in Germany and the humiliation she suffers working as a domestic in family households, where the husbands typically make sexual advances towards her. Hanna ends up immigrating to South-West Africa as part of a German government-sponsored movement promoting emigration by single women to provide brides for male farmers and traders living in the colony. Hanna's journey is not one to safety, however. She is attacked and mutilated, and her tongue cut out, by a sadistic German officer named Bohlke. Hanna ends up at a terrifying outpost known as the Frauenstein, where unwanted and abused women are kept. For the remainder of the book, Brink details Hanna's escape and trail of revenge as she forms a small vigilante group that murders German soldiers as they hunt for Bohlke.
Writing in the Washington Times, Judith Chettle found Brink's characters in The Other Side of Silence somewhat stereotypical: "The white men, with rare exceptions, are sexually obsessed brutes, the Africans noble, and the women, especially the heroine Hanna X, helpless victims." Chettle went on to note, "But though the settings are vividly evoked, and the story often compelling, it is too message-driven to completely satisfy." A Publishers Weekly contributor also found Hanna to be, at times, a "one-dimensional character" because of the relentless violence depicted. Nevertheless, the reviewer noted that "the imagery from this haunting novel will stay with readers as will the frightening allure of all-consuming hatred." Brendan Driscoll, writing in Booklist, maintained that The Other Side of Silence "proves provocative by evoking these themes [—violence, memory, and apartheid—] within the unconventional setting of German colonialism." In a review for Library Journal, Lawrence Rungren commented, "Brutal in its action while poetic in its language, this is an unflinching portrayal of the savagery just beneath civilization's skin."
Reinventing a Continent: Writing and Politics in South Africa is a collection of Brink's essays concerning apartheid, the Afrikaners who settled his homeland, and the grim chaos of South Africa's struggling democratic government. Throughout the book, Brink focuses on the role of the writer in political matters and asks what role those writers who opposed apartheid for so long can now play in a black-run society. "Brink chronicles," Vanessa Bush noted in Booklist, "a 15-year period in the political and social transformation of South Africa." According to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, the novelist presents readers with "a thoughtful and human response to injustice."
Brink turns his attention to the crafting of literature in his nonfiction work The Novel: Language and Narrative from Cervantes to Calvino, a survey of fifteen classic novels. While his own novels have been marked by their strong political preoccupations, Brink argues that the genre is really about a play with language. He backs up his argument with examples from such works as Don Quixote and Italo Calvino's If on a Winter Night a Traveller. Writing in the New York Times, Peter Brooks found that "Brink is an alert, enthusiastic and engaging reader, who reports his reading experiences with wit and fluency." Thomas L. Cooksey concluded in Library Journal that Brink's text is "marked by clarity, insight, and comprehension."
"Since my tastes in literature are catholic," Brink once remarked to CA, "I have never been a disciple of any one school. The most abiding influence on my work, however, has been Albert Camus, notably in his view of man in a state of incessant revolt against the conditions imposed upon him, and reacting creatively to the challenge of meaninglessness. In much of my work this is linked to an element of mysticism derived from the Spanish writers of the seventeenth century. The other most abiding influence on my writing is the study of history. All my work is pervaded with a sense of 'roots,' whether in the collective history of peoples or in the private history of an individual." Brink added, "However close my work is to the realities of South Africa today, the political situation remains a starting point only for my attempts to explore the more abiding themes of human loneliness and man's efforts to reach out and touch someone else. My stated conviction is that literature should never descend to the level of politics; it is rather a matter of elevating and refining politics so as to be worthy of literature."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 18, 1981, Volume 36, 1986.
Jolly, Rosemary Jane, Colonization, Violence, and Narration in White South African Writing: André Brink, Breyten Breytenbach, and J. M. Coetzee, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 1995.
Atlantic, October, 1978.
Best Sellers, February, 1979.
Booklist, July, 1998, Vanessa Bush, review of Reinventing a Continent: Writing and Politics in South Africa, p. 1852; March 15, 1999, review of Devil's Valley, p. 1288; May 15, 2003, Brendan Driscoll, review of The Other Side of Silence, p. 1637.
Bookwatch, October, 1998, review of Reinventing a Continent, p. 9.
Canadian Forum, December, 1983.
Chicago Tribune, September 5, 1995; October 16, 1996; November 24, 1996.
Choice, November, 1998, review of The Novel, p. 515.
Christian Science Monitor, March 10, 1980; July 21, 1982; April 10, 1985; June 4, 1986.
Commonweal, September 12, 1975; July 13, 1984.
English Journal, January, 1998, Patricia Faith Goldblatt, review of Imaginings of Sand, p. 111.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), August 20, 1988.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 1989; March 1, 1998, review of The Novel, p. 310; July 1, 1998, review of Reinventing a Continent, p. 940; January 15, 1999, review of Devil's Valley, p. 81; January 15, 2001, review of The Rights of Desire, p. 69.
Library Journal, August, 1975; February 15, 1977; April 1, 1985; April 15, 1998, Thomas L. Cooksey, review of The Novel, p. 78; February 15, 1999, review of Devil's Valley, p. 181; January 1, 2001, Edward B. St. John, review of The Rights of Desire, p. 151; March 1, 2003, Lawrence Rungren, review of The Other Side of Silence, p. 116.
Listener, October 8, 1987.
London Magazine, June, 1979.
London Review of Books, August 4, 1988.
Los Angeles Times, August 19, 1987; May 18, 1989; September 29, 1989; October 7, 1989; October 15, 1989; April 17, 1990; January 26, 1992; August 29, 1993.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 21, 1999, review of Devil's Valley, p. 2.
Maclean's, May 10, 1982.
Nation, June 21, 1986; April 6, 1992, p. 455.
New Leader, January 14-28, 1985.
New Republic, October 21, 1978; April 30, 1984.
New Statesman, November 17, 1978; October 5, 1979; July 8, 1983; September 28, 1984; December 6, 1985; August 29, 1986; August 27, 1993, p. 37; February 23, 1996, p. 45.
Newsweek, December 2, 1974.
New Yorker, August 25, 1975.
New York Review of Books, December 2, 1982; April 25, 1985.
New York Times, February 2, 1984; March 6, 1984; September 17, 1989; September 20, 1989; September 25, 1989; December 11, 1996; August 2, 1998, Peter Brooks, "What Flaubert Knew."
New York Times Book Review, February 27, 1977; March 23, 1980; June 13, 1982; March 17, 1985; June 29, 1986; January 12, 1992, p. 6; July 25, 1993, p. 1; August 14, 1994, p. 94; August 2, 1998, review of The Novel, p. 20; March 21, 1999, Lorna Sage, "Escape from Paradise," p. 8.
Observer (London, England), May 15, 1988; August 29, 1993; August 16, 1998, review of Devil's Valley, p. 15.
Publishers Weekly, March 10, 1989; June 22, 1998, review of Reinventing a Continent, p. 74; January 18, 1999, review of Devil's Valley, p. 326; March 5, 2001, review of The Rights of Desire, p. 60; April 7, 2003, review of The Other Side of Silence, p. 42.
Reference and Research Book News, November, 1998, review of The Novel, p. 198; February, 1999, review of Reinventing a Continent, p. 35.
San Francisco Review of Books, January, 1992.
Saturday Review, August 23, 1975.
Shakespeare Quarterly, summer, 1998, review of Destabilising Shakespeare, p. 235.
Spectator, September 18, 1976; October 6, 1984; February 17, 1996.
Studies in the Novel, spring, 2002, Isidore Diala, "History and the Inscriptions of Torture as Purgatorial Fire in André Brink's Fiction," p. 60; winter, 2002, Isidore Diala, "The Political Limits of (Western) Humanism in André Brink's Early Fiction," p. 422.
Times (London, England), May 6, 1982; November 14, 1985; March 3, 1990.
Times Literary Supplement, November 15, 1974; September 17, 1976; October 20, 1978; May 14, 1982; September 16, 1983; October 5, 1984; January 10, 1986; February 26, 1993; September 3, 1993; February 9, 1996; October 2, 1998, review of The Novel, p. 32.
UNESCO Courier, September, 1993, p. 4.
Voice Literary Supplement, November, 1987.
Washington Post, May 28, 1982; July 13, 1989; September 22, 1989; September 26, 1989.
Washington Post Book World, January 20, 1980; February 17, 1985; July 13, 1989; March 15, 1992.
Washington Times, November 24, 1996; June 22, 2003, Judith Chettle, review of The Other Side of Silence, p. B08.
World Literature Today, autumn, 1977; summer, 1984; winter, 1985; summer, 1986; spring, 1989; summer, 1998, Sheila Roberts, review of Die Jogger, p. 674; autumn, 1998, review of The Novel, p. 908; spring, 1999, review of Reinventing a Continent, p. 381; spring, 2001, Barend J. Toerien, review of Groot verseboek 2000, p. 311; summer-autumn, 2001, Ursula A. Barnett, review of The Rights of Desire, p. 106, and Ludo Stynen, review of Donkermaan, p. 123.*