A SEASON IN PARADISE by Breyten Breytenbach


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Breytenbach, the Afrikaans poet now serving a nine-year sentence for state subversion in South Africa, wrote this journal during a three-month return to South Africa in 1972 after 13 years of living in Paris (where he married a Vietnamese woman). Flying over the African continent, he's deeply moved--a joy that's furthered by the sight of the sea off Capetown, the birds, the flora, by a trip into the Karoo desert, a hike into the Cedarsburg mountains. His Afrikaans relatives impress him with their ruggedness and their faith. Still, at his first public forum, a conference for Afrikaans writers, he can't hold back: ""All talk in this sad bitter motley funeral land is politics. . . . It's not a choice the writer has. . . it lies in the very nature of communication. Together all of us have industriously, and blindly as ants, dragged this country to the last abyss before hell. Now we can talk, can't we, talk so loudly that we can't distinguish the crackling of flames from the chattering of our teeth."" This is a good measure of Breytenbach's flamboyant style; but how enraged and grieving he becomes during the journal (and how scared when he's hauled away for interrogation on a visit to a black leader)--that's always keyed to his status as an Afrikaaner, guilt and impotence repeatedly exorcised by means of the strongest images. A percolation of bewilderment and the moral impulse undenied, it is an impressive, choked work.

Pub Date: April 8th, 1980
Publisher: Persea