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Poetry Africa, International Poetry Festival, to welcome Beninese poet and novelist Banarbé Laye

14 – 18 October 2013 | Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre & BAT Centre, Durban

barnab laye at poetry africa

Considered a critical platform for self-expression which offers a space for cultural exchange in the city of Durban, Poetry Africa will feature once again an exhilarating showcase of diverse voices and sounds. This year, the festival’s international line-up include four poets from the Irish poetry collective O'Bheal, be Ian Kamau (Canada), Raphael d'Abdon (Italy/ South Africa) and Barnabe Laye (Benin).

A poet and novelist, Laye has published a dozen books and is the recipient of the Nelligan Prize his lifetimes work. His most recent work is entitled Poems in Absent, a long wait (2010). He is regarded as one of the most influential voices of the current generation of Black writers in French language. Some of his books have been translated into English, Spanish and Brazilian.

The 17th Poetry Africa, International Poetry Festival is presented by The Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu-Natal), in partnership with the City of Durban and the KZN Department of Arts and Culture.

For more information on the festival, please visit www.cca.ukzn.ac.za

Barnabé Laye was born on 11 June 1941 in Porto-Novo (Benin). Studied at the Collège Père Aupiais, Cotonou (Benin). Went to the Faculty of Medicine of Bordeaux, then in Paris. Doctor at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. He succeeds in juggling his literary and medical vocations. « I am a doctor by day and writer by night. I think both sides of myself cohabitate well. But I must confess that it’s the doctor who nourishes the writer, who supports him like one supports a dancer… The writer sometimes capricious, he is unhappy, he dreams of the day when he’ll finally be free to devote himself entirely to his passion ».

Barnabé Laye talks about the genesis of his literary career: « After reading the novel, Cry, the Beloved Country by South African Alan Paton, I closed the book, overwhelmed, as if I had just had an epiphany… I told to myself- that’s what needs to be done, writing in a simple and uncluttered language, letting the music of the words carry the ardor of the feelings, translating the fragility of the existences and the distress at the heart of the human being. I was fifteen. Soon after, I told my father I wanted to be a writer. Embarrassed, he replied : Son, this is not a job fit for a Black man, that’s not a job for us. I always obeyed my father that I consider to be one the most intelligent men I have ever met. So, I chose to become a doctor like my maternal uncle that my father admired and held up as an example. When I announced my choice, my father whispered in my ear, like a confidence : and your uncle, he changes car every two years and he married the most beautiful woman in the country ! before leaving with a laugh. Besides, for some reasons that I could not explain, I always thought that medicine was a very… poetic profession. »

Today, Barnabé Laye hopes he has kept the wonder that the teenage boy he was felt, facing the beauty of the language when it expresses disarray but also deep-rooted hope and an irrepressible need for love, justice and truth. French writer André Maurois said: « The place for a writer to innovate is in his way of looking at life ». Barnabé Laye’s look, through all his books, is a look full of compassion and fraternity.

See more at www.barnabelaye.com

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