Brink book gets rare language makeover
Cape Town - A surprise at the weekend was enough to get André P Brink to open a very special bottle of red.
The reason? The arrival of the first copies of his Houd-den-bek in Occitan.
"There are only a handful of speakers of the language in the world and to be translated into it is one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me," said a Brink, who could barely contain his happiness.
"The language is a kind of a relic of the French language, a variant of Provençal," he explains. "An Argentinean writer friend of mine said that not even Gabriel Garcia Marquez has been translated into it yet! This now brings, they tell me, the number of languages in which my work has appeared, to 36."
Smiling from ear to ear
But it's not about the number, he says. It's about the "absolute rarity" of the event.
"On this I can assure you, a very, very special wine will be opened!
"Look, I've previously felt jubilant to appear in languages like Chinese or Vietnamese, or Serbian or Croatian or Serbo-Croatian, or closer to home, Xhosa or Ndonga. Or to be performed in Bulgarian. But a special candle must be lit for this Occitan moment."
He doesn't know how and where the Occitans got hold of his book, says Brink. All he knows is that he ran into a few of them a while ago at a publishing house in Toulouse. Today, Occitan (or rather Langue d'oc - where the region gets its name) is still spoken in a few places in southwest France, especially around Toulouse and Bordeaux and then to the Pyrenees side.
"When we were there more than a year ago, I heard that something like this might happen. They arranged an event where French and Occitan texts were read and recited, but I never thought a translation had a chance to become a reality," he said.
"But here he is sitting now like a cat on my desk smiling from ear to ear!"