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Biography of Breyten BREYTENBACH

South Africa > Literature : Breyten BREYTENBACH

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Born on 16/09/1939 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Breyten Breytenbach (b.September 16, 1939), is a South African writer and painter with French citizenship.

 Celebrated poet, author, artist, essayist, and activist Breyten Breytenbach was born in 1939 in the Western Cape and studied Fine Arts at the University of Cape Town, before leaving the country in 1959. His literary debut Catastrophes (1964), a volume of stories, was followed by The Iron Cow Must Sweat . The latter was awarded the APB literary prize (one of over twenty prizes awarded over his career), which Breytenbach refused to receive after his wife, who was of Vietnamese origin, was denied a South African visa under the Apartheid government's Mixed Marriages Act.

Breytenbach worked as political activist from the 1960s onwards, drawing international attention to the human rights violations and injustices of the Apartheid government, and collaborating closely with UNESCO and the ANC. In 1975, on an “illegal” visit to South Africa to make contacts with activists and trade unionists, he was arrested, charged under the Terrorism Act and jailed for seven years. Released from prison in 1982, due to massive international pressure, he left for Paris where he obtained French citizenship.

 Breytenbach's prison memoir, The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist (1983), is widely recognized as a South African classic and has been translated into several other languages.

 In 1987, he helped to organize the historic Dakar Conference in Senegal where exiled ANC members met with influential South Africans to pave the way towards a democratic South Africa . Breytenbach, who was part of the team that started the Centre for Creative Arts, has also held numerous visiting professor posts, including University of Natal, Princeton University, New York University and the University of Cape Town, and has also been awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Cape Town and the University of Natal .

He co-founded and is currently the director of the Goree Institute. The institute aims to strengthen democratic processes, the autonomy of civil societies and cultural research and expression in Africa .


Last update : 06/06/2009

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