"Ek is nie meer een van ons nie": Breyten en die volk
Keywords:Breyten Breytenbach, politics of resitance, Afrikaans literary debates, Afrikaans poetry
The Afrikaans poet-intellectual, Breyten Breytenbach, has been an active participant in South African public life since his debut in 1964. His artistic and political choices draw upon a culture and a politics of resistance based in the past, present and future. Over four decades he actively contributed to the polarization and expansion of cultural and socio-political debate in South Africa. Against this background the article explores the cyclical rhythm of approval and rejection that characterizes the relationship between Breytenbach and the Afrikaner people. Recently his dissident voice in local cultural and political discourse has been silenced following the results of a "people's poll" by a leading Afrikaans newspaper. The investigation contextualizes this watershed event by tracing key reception debacles in Breytenbach's career and highlights recurring motifs and the manipulative role of the Afrikaner press. These events include the reception of the Paris based poet's debut, Die ysterkoei moet sweet (The Iron Cow Must Sweat) (1964); the granting of a literary award and the ensuing refusal of a visa to his Vietnamese wife, an event that exiled the author (1965); his first visit to the country and participation in a "Sestiger" (Afrikaans authors of the 1960s) literary event (1973); his arrest, trial under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and subsequent imprisonment (1975); his release from prison and return to settle in Paris (1982); his return to South Africa to receive a literary award (1986); the reception of his first art exhibition, Painting the Eye (1994); the reception of his first play, Boklied (Song of the Goat) (1998); the reception of Die toneelstuk (The Play) and the subsequent opinion poll (2001); and the debacle that followed his decision not to publish for a wider Afrikaans readership and to disseminate his poems privately to a few friends (2002).
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