Je Suis Andre?

Andre P Brink

               Andre P Brink                      (29 May 1935 – 6 February 2015)

Andre P Brink did a lot of things in his life. Honoured in so many ways, respected for his work and revered for his phenomenal intellect, the country lost an irreplaceable literary giant in the past few days.

He showed the world that not all Afrikaners dress in khaki, while clutching antiquated Mausers and shouting abuse at those of a darker skin colour. He wrote about inequality in South Africa even before all Americans had the right to vote. His books often reflected his observations at the time of writing, which in the end, says a lot about the evolution of society in Southern Africa.

His early works targeted the conservative approach prevalent in government circles at the time. He despised Apartheid and made his readers take a long, hard look at the current policies of the sixties and seventies. Then came a phase of hope, anticipating a better future and a just society under fair majority rule. And finally, disillusioned by the corruption and crime the old Brink emerged once more as a protester against the new realities of the country. In his autobiography (A Fork in the Road – 2009) he tells the story of a young man who came to realise the injustices in his country – only to view the current state of affairs under majority rule in the same despairing light. The circle of protest was complete. Neither so-called ‘Left’ or ‘Right’, Brink remained the critical observer throughout his life. Much like Archbishop Tutu, he had the courage to be honest, even if it meant treading on unforgiving toes.

Brink used his literary voice with great effect. The numerous accolades showered on him – both locally and internationally – attest to the power of his works.

But…

Will the man in the street hear his voice? Did they, in the seventies when the Nationalists banned his books, understand what he was saying? And do they, now? It’s a shame that he was viewed as an acclaimed academic. This tag caused a distance between his work and  those who really, really needed to become involved in his thoughts. His target wasn’t just the Nationalists in 1960 or the ANC after 1994 – it was (and is) the hearts and minds of common citizens. He spoke to ruler and ruled alike in his unapologetic analysis of our diseased society. And, while we know that governments tend to harden their stance in the face of criticism, it is the populace – the voters, you and I – who should be observant enough to take note of what Brink was trying to tell them.

Brink may have passed on, but his voice is still there – loud and clear – pleading for us to open our eyes and to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

As an author, Brink attained a form of immortality.  Throughout his life, he had been labelled as a communist, a liberal, a protester and anti-establishment. In reality, he only acted as a mirror – reflecting all too brightly the issues most people chose to ignore. In this, his message is timeless.

Are we be bold enough to listen now? To see, to analyse, to acknowledge? To join his voice in condemning the sad state of affairs we are forced to live with?. To say: Je Suis Andre?

Rest in Peace, Andre Philippus Brink; but may your words continue to challenge us towards a brighter tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “Je Suis Andre?

  1. vega

    Ek gaan dalk nou ‘n groot klip in ‘n kameeldoringboom gooi. Ek is nie ‘n letterkundige nie, maar lees geweldig baie. Ek glo Andre P Brink was ‘n groot letterkundige, kampvegter, ‘n briljante skrywer en akademikus ens ens. Ek het hom nie geken nie so ek maak afleidings uit die boeke van hom wat ek gelees het. Die laaste paar boeke wat ek probeer lees het, het my laat wonder waarom sy ouer karakter (dikwels skrywer of professor) altyd ‘n affair met ‘n jong student het. En dit was vervelig. Nadat ek A Fork In The Road gelees het was ek SO teleurgesteld. Hy kom vir my voor as ‘n selfgesentreerde, oppervlakkige mens, ingestel op sy eie fisiese behoeftes, sy magnetiese uitwerking op vroue (weird; as jy in ag neem dat hy nie juis aantreklik was nie) en eerbetoning. Daar was geen wysheid nie. Glad nie te vergeleke met Steven King se On Writing of J M Coetzee Diary of a Bad Year of Pat Conroy se memoirs nie.
    Daar was niks met diepte wat my bygebly het nadat ek dit gelees het nie. So anders as jou vertellings wat mens altyd laat dink (ponder) oor die lewe, mense en gebeure. (Jip. Dis ‘n groot kompliment.)

    Reply
    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      Klippe in die bos is altyd welkom – want geen saak het immers een kant nie. Dis altyd goed om meer as een perspektief te erken voor mens t’n opinie vorm. Dankie daarvoor…
      Hy was sekerlik ‘n komplekse karakter. Wat my bybly, was sy protes. Oor sy persoonlikheid en persoonlike lewe kan mens sekerlik opmerkings maak – en jy’s reg hieroor. Tussen sy skyfsels deur, is die een tema wat my bybly, sy soeke na regverdigheid. Aan die begin was sy opstand teen een vorm van regering, later ook teen ons huidige leiers – en dis wat ek hier wou uitlig. Ek is nie gebore instaat om sy akademiese bydrae te beoordeel nie, en nog minder kan ek regit iets sê oorsy interpersoonlike verhoudings…Soos jy tereg sê: mens wonder hieroor.
      Tog, ‘n bydrae het hy gelewer en dis die goeie wat ek wil beklemtoon. Dis mos maar die Rolbos-patroon: soek die mooi en lig dit uit. Die ou wêreld is nou maar eenmaal soos hy is, en in elkeen is daar baie dorings en min rose. Maar…daar is rose…kom ons sien dit (ook) raak.
      En ai, wat ‘n mooi kompliment! Dankie!

      Reply
      1. melroseinpretoria

        My klippie:- Mens kan met verskillende perspektiewe na sy werk kyk. Calvinisties gesproke kan Andrè P. Brink se skrywes skok en mens kan wel ʼn vraagteken of twee laat hang oor die morele sy van buite-egtelike verhoudings. Kom ons wees realisties meeste mans/vrouens (die mens)…. se begeertes is maar na daai perfekte liggaam wat jou seksueel prikkel. Hy het nie geskroom om dit te erken in sy werk nie. As mens ook van realisme na die sublieme weggevoer word deur sy werk, dan het daai man nou geweet hoe om liefde te maak met woorde Hy laat mens swymel, mens se knieë word lam en ek, asook, van my vriendinne wat my dogter insluit wat van sy boeke bespreek het, het kopskuttend beaam hy weet hoe om `n orgasme in jou brein te laat ontstaan. Sy roman Voor ek vergeet was vir my een van sy bestes!. Hy was `n meester en sy woorde en het my betower.
        Amos jy is reg hy was `n goeie spieël met sy skryfwerk vir menswees en die samelewing. Dankie vir jou blog Rolbos dit laat mens altyd dink en is ook vir my `n goeie gebalanseerde perspektief (soms met reg sinies, soms ook optimisties maar altyd met ‘n traan en ‘n lag) ….. Je Suis Amos!🙂

  2. mysm2000

    Reblogged this on Ms M's Bookshelf and commented:
    Amos Van der Merwe always has such interesting posts. I wanted to share this one with you today about Andre P. Brink, whom Amos calls “a literary giant”. If he isn’t someone whose work you’re familiar with, maybe this is a good time to change that. Enjoy my Sunday reblog!

    Reply

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