André Brink

Isidore Diala

in African Studies

ISBN: 9780199846733
Published online May 2017 | | DOI:
André Brink

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André Philippus Brink (b. 1935—d. 2015) is acclaimed as one of South Africa’s foremost writers. Internationally renowned novelist, playwright, scholar, critic, translator, travel writer, and editor, Brink was prolific and his oeuvre monumental: some twenty-six novels, many of them translated into thirty-five languages, more than fourteen original plays, in addition to adaptations and translations, travelogue, and volumes of scholarly and critical materials. His reputation is equally peerless as an internationally celebrated commentator on the aberrations and enormities of the apartheid state. Born the eldest child of a magistrate father and schoolteacher mother in Vrede in the Orange Free State on 29 May 1935, Brink graduated from the Calvinist Potchefstroom University in South Africa, where he earned an MA in Afrikaans in 1958, and another MA in English in 1959. His postgraduate studies in comparative literature at the Sorbonne, University of Paris, between 1959 and 1961, and his experience of greater personal freedom in France, away from his typically conservative Afrikaner clan, transformed his writing and his outlook on life. Brink, who emerged as a writer as a prominent member of the Sestigers—writers of the 60s—came under the influence of trends in metropolitan European literature in France. However, the political turning point in Brink’s writing career was 1974: his novel Kennis van die Aand (1973) became the first Afrikaans work to be banned in South Africa. Brink’s consequent translation of the novel into English and his discovery of an international audience began a fascinating tradition of part self-translation and part self-rewriting that became a feature of virtually his entire oeuvre thenceforth. It also accounted for the twofold fixation of his writing: his abiding concern with South African history and politics and the existential human situation. Persecuted by the apartheid establishment, and vilified by nationalist Afrikaner intellectuals, Brink was nonetheless a recipient of many literary prizes, local and international: Reina Prinsen Geerlings Prize, 1964; Central News Agency award for English literature, for Rumours of Rain, 1978; Martin Luther King Memorial Prize and Prix Medicis Etranger, both in 1980, for A Dry White Season. He was nominated several times for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Brink’s dynamism as a commentator on the South African state is highlighted by his sensitivity to the historical mutations of the enclave, necessitating a gamut of aesthetic responses whose trajectory is a movement from social realism to postmodernism. Brink apparently suffered an aneurism on 6 February 2015 over Brazzaville on a flight from Europe to South Africa, doubtlessly an emblematic way to die for a writer who visualized his entire life as a symbolic crossing of frontiers and saw the negotiation of the cultural and intellectual distance between Europe and Africa as the core of his life-long endeavor (Elnadi and Rifaat 1993, cited under Interviews). This article seeks to chart a critical pathway to an understanding of Brink’s scholarly heritage by identifying and illuminating representative and signal sources.

Article.  20079 words. 

Subjects: African History ; African Languages ; African Music ; African Philosophy ; African Studies

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