Please deliver me, Lady, of prattle and cant As I bury one hundred years of war and want Evoking an extraordinary range of settings and images--from "Africa where blood blackens / and tiny desert creatures have to lick / the dew from their flanks to survive" to the havens of exile, and the "snow once again over Paris / this morning sheeting light / under grey blankets"--this searching verse explores love and loss, light and darkness, war and want, and wounds that do not heal. The texture of nostalgic, sometimes bitter memories of childhood in Breytenbach's African homeland is as palpable here as the vigorous exultation of love found amid the ruins of an earlier life. And pervading all the experience rendered is a sense of wonder and awe that "the light lies silvery smooth / in the furrows dug by the farmer / to lead astray the drought / and bring succour to the runner beans, / the maize, tomatoes, melons, peppers, / onions, garlic, potatoes / and love."
BREYTEN BREYTENBACH left South Africa in 1960, and settled in Paris. After his marriage to a Vietnamese woman, he found he could not return to his country. He became one of the best-known campaigners against the apartheid government in the struggle years. In 1975 he was arrested in Johannesburg, charged with terrorist activities, and was sentenced to nine years imprisonment. He was released in 1983. Since then he has received wide recognition as a leading poet of his generation, also internationally. He was awarded the Hertzog Prize for poetry in 1999 for Papierblom and his books have been translated into many languages. Recent publications include his latest collection of poetry: Die windvanger (2007), and his two collected editions of earlier poetry: Ysterkoei-blues and Die ongedanste dans. He is also a painter.