Breyten Breytenbach

(1939 / Bonnievale, Western Cape)

Biography of Breyten Breytenbach

Breyten Breytenbach poet

Breyten Breytenbach ( born 16 September 1939) is a South African writer and painter of great eminence. He is informally considered as the national poet laureate by Afrikaans-speaking South Africans of the region. He also holds French citizenship.

Breyten Breytenbach was born in Bonnievale, Western Cape, approximately 180 km from Cape Town and 100 km from the southernmost tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas. His early education was at Hoërskool Hugenoot and he later studied fine arts at the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town. His committed opposition to apartheid policy compelled him to leave South Africa for Paris, France, in the early 1960s, where he married a French woman of Vietnamese ancestry, Yolande, due to which he was not allowed to return: The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (1949) and The Immorality Act (1950) made it a criminal offence for a white person to have any sexual relations with a person of a different race.

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Your letter

your letter is larger and lighter
than the thought of a flower when the dream
is a garden—

as your letter opens
there's an unfolding of sky, word from outside,
wide spaces

I slept in green pastures,

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