Book Reviews & Essays on Literature

Devil’s Valley, by André P. Brink – and other works

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André P. Brink died on 6 February 2015. After all these years, I still read him – in Afrikaans and English. Just the other day I took up Devil’s Valley again and enjoyed having my hair stand on end and my stomach churn. Oh so juicy, so wicked, so scandalous, smacking of perversion and malice! What fun!

Brink (born 29 May 1935) wrote 21 novels, in both English and Afrikaans, translating his own work. He was another “Sestiger” like Chris Barnard, who also died in 2015, and was also famously opposed to Apartheid. He is one of a handful of South African authors who have achieved international fame.

His novel Kennis van die aand (Looking at Darkness), published in 1973, was the first Afrikaans book to be banned by the South African government. Long after it was published, his contentious 1963 novel, Die Ambassadeur / The Ambassador was on many prescribed reading lists for literature students because of its radical theme, for that time, of criticizing religion. His novels were popular and translated into 30 languages, and he was twice shortlisted for the Booker Prize, the recipient of the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize and in 1992 he was made Commandeur de l’Ordres des Arts et de Lettres in France.

His prizewinning novels dealt with Apartheid issues, particularly Rumours of Rain (1978) – one of those shortlisted for the Booker Prize, A Dry White Season (1979) – which was filmed with Janet Suzman and Donald Sutherland – and A Chain of Voices (1981). Philida (2012) was the last novel he wrote before his death on a flight from Amsterdam to South Africa from Belgium. He was married six (!) times.

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