'Go against the questions to try to find the answers - André P Brink

2015-02-07 21:06

Johannesburg - Celebrated South African writer and outspoken critic of apartheid,  Andre P Brink, author of the novel A Dry White Season, has died aged 79, his university announced on Saturday.

He died on Friday night on board a flight home from Belgium where he had received an honorary doctorate from Belgian Francophone Universite Catholique de Louvain (UCL).

"The only triumph the human being can boast about is to go against the questions to try to find answers," Brink said in his final speech delivered when the doctorate was conferred on him in Brussels on Monday.

"If we knew the answers in advance, there wouldn't be adventures, there wouldn't be true choices," he said in French.

"For me it's linked to 'je suis Charlie'," said Brink, referring to the hashtag coined to protest the attack in France on the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly.

He referred to the double sense of the word "suis" in French.

"'Je suis' as in 'I am', but also 'Je suis' as in 'I follow' in the steps of someone who was trying to find the road through the darkness towards a goal that is not yet definite, that is still unclear."

Deeply saddening 

"This news is deeply saddening, even as the circumstances of Andre's death underscore the extraordinary life that he lived," said Professor Lesley Marx of the University of Cape Town.

Some local media said he had developed a blood clot while on the KLM flight from Amsterdam to Cape Town.

Winner of several book awards and nominated three times for a Nobel prize, Brink was an emeritus professor of literature at the University of Cape Town after formally retiring in 2005.

He was also an outspoken critic of censorship and oppression.

Among the most widely-known of his over 40 works was his 1979 novel A Dry White Season, which was made into a film starring Marlon Brando.

That and others set him apart as a "courageous and prolific author of ... political protest", said Marx in a statement.

His protest did not end with the demise of apartheid.

His autobiography A Fork in the Road published in 2009 drew a bleak assessment of the first 15 post-apartheid years.

"Now that the [ruling party] ANC has moved into power, its regime sadly must be branded as the enemy of the people," he wrote.

Three years ago Brink and South African Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer led a campaign against proposals by the ANC government to push through an information bill that would have seen whistle-blowers and investigative journalists face prison for revealing government secrets.

Born in May 1935 to a magistrate father and a mother who taught English, he wrote in both English and Afrikaans. He translated around 70 works into Afrikaans.

Brink was a key member of the Die Sestigers literary movement of the 1960s that campaigned against the apartheid government using Afrikaans.

Among his international awards was the Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour - France's top civilian award granted to him in 1982.

He was born Andre Philippus Brink on 29 May 1935 in Vrede town in the Free State. 

Brink studied and lectured at some of South Africa's leading universities and he carried out his post-graduate research at Paris's University of Sorbonne.

He was married and divorced several times. In 2010 he told the British Guardian newspaper that he had been married six times.

*Family, friends and Colleagues of Andre P Brink are invited to share their memories and tributes, and to light a candle for him, on his profile at Remembered.co.za.

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