Breytenbach defintely is one of my faovourite authors. He may be the most important author of the Afrikaans language alive or dead and he certainly was one of the better know white faces of the anti-apartheid struggle. During and after the apartheid years he made several visits to his home country and transformed his observations and comments into literature.


Breytenbach may be a real South African – but he has spent most of life (from 1960, when he was about 20 years old) in Europe. Admittedly, he lived once again in South Africa between 1975 and 1982 when he was imprisoned for terrorism. Still, he is more a European than an African, and this not just in apartheid terminology. He looks at South Africa with the eyes of a foreigner, ever-curious and and original in his attempts to make sense of what ultimately is senseless.

Breytenbach does paintings, prose, and poetry, but the latter is what he probably does best. Prose works like Return to Paradise are not novels, not even travel diaries, but a rambling collection of memories and ruminations, very loosely connected by his itinery through South Africa. Their value lies not in their political or sociological lucidity but rather in the love for the country and its people which makes the reader feel homesick for a country which he or she may not even know. But then, Breytenbach himself has many contacts but little first-hand experience of South Africa himself.

If you like South Africa, this book is for you, even thoug by now it is heavily outdated.