The man Breyten Breytenbach is an accomplished writer, poet, painter was born in 1936 in South Africa. During the heady days of apartheid he left the country of his birth and went into exile for a long, long time. He settled in France. He married a French woman of Vietnamese descent, and that marital crossing of borders was illegal in those days. He supported the struggle against apartheid. He made a secret trip to South Africa in 1975, was betrayed and arrested and given a nine years prison service. He wrote a book about the true confessions of a white terrorist.
After the dismantling of apartheid and the installation of democracy Breyten Breytenbach decided to return to his country of birth. He moved to the East Cape, where he came from originally. He settled in Montagu, not that far away from Bonnievale, where he was born. He visited neighbours, relatives, travelled around, he made notes, wrote poems, made new acquaintances, lost old ones, visited museums and vineyards, delved into his family history.
This travel memoir is just as much a memoir of his past and his present, the landscape and the mood of the people. In beautiful prose he makes his memories visible. When you read carefully you could make a family tree of his people rooted in the south. What struck me was the abounding violence in the area of Montagu. So much loss of life. It seems as if life is futile and not worth saving in a changing society.
Breytenbach wrote a small monument of everyday life in a rural area.
Breyten Breytenbach – Dog Heart. A Travel memoir – 1998