• Welcome to the website of the French Institute of South Africa!

  • Bienvenue sur le site de l'Institut Français d'Afrique du Sud !

Book launch "Breyten Breytenbach, A Monologue in Two Voices" by Sandra Saayman

eb6c7c01c4e98e1f2578f9959463b973 L  Lattrape-pigeon by Breyten Breytenbach

Book launch 

Thursday 13 March at 5:30 for 6 pm
Clarke’s Bookshop, 199 Long Street, Cape Town
RSVP This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Breyten Breytenbach and Sandra Saayman will be in conversation with Bronwyn Law-Viljoen.
Published by Fourthwall Books / www.fourthwallbooks.com

About the book

Although isolated and detailed analyses of individual texts and paintings form the basis of our scholarly engagement with literature and painting, the simultaneous consideration of text and image yields a richer appreciation of the multi-facetted work of writer and painter, Breyten Breytenbach.

This book argues that writing and painting form two manifestations of one and the same creative force, and should be read as such. His imaginary world finds expression in the sister arts, linked in Western culture since antiquity: Ut pictura poesis, poetry is like painting. And, by extension, painting is like poetry. Yet, internationally, the substantial body of academic analyses of Breyten Breytenbach’s oeuvre pays scant attention to his painting, limiting our knowledge. If the lines “the hospitals of Paris are crammed with pasty people/standing at the windows making threatening gestures/like the angels in the furnace” will be immediately recognized by any Breytenbach scholar, a major work like L’attrape-pigeon, painted in prison in spite of the formal prohibition on painting, is unknown and would be recognized as a work by Breytenbach by very few (and the story of how the painting got to be made in prison, also remains to be told).

The Breytenbach scholar’s muse imaginaire, the museum of works of art that can be called up by the mind’s eye, is regrettably poor. It is my conviction that, in engaging with Breytenbach’s oeuvre, his poems, works of fiction or essays are not more important than his paintings. This would imply that, in spite of the presence of his poetry and prose in school and university syllabi, in spite of the numerous theses on university library bookshelves and in spite of the growing body of literary criticism, his oeuvre has been only partially read, precisely because his painterly oeuvre is not taken into account.

A Monologue in Two Voices includes a previously unpublished text by Breyten Breytenbach which will be translated into French. The book will also include a previously unexhibited set of drawings done by Breytenbach while in prison.

About the author

Sandra Saayman is senior lecturer in South African literature and culture studies at the University of Reunion Island and senior research fellow at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg. She obtained a Ph.D. in literature in 2003 at the University of Poitiers, France. Her research focuses on the role of the visual arts in literary texts and, more generally, on the relationship between text and image in the public space.


Book cover and inside pages of Breyten Breytenbach, A Monologue in Two Voices by Sandra Saayman and L’attrape-pigeon by Breyten Breytenbach

Books - Events & News

  • Events and News

    Dibuka - the francophone multimedia library of Johannesburg

    Dibuka is a multi-media library focussing on France and contemporary francophone culture, the result of a partnership between the French Embassy in South Africa, the French Institute of South Africa and the Alliance française of Johannesburg.The library offers to the general public almost 20 000… Read more
  • Nicolas Fargue
    Events and News

    French writer Nicolas Fargues invited at the Franschhoek Literary Festival from 18 to 20 May

    Nicolas Fargues is the guest French writer of the Franschhoek literary festival this year from 19 to 20 May. He is then invited by the French embassy to make a tour in 3 universities to meet the students of French language & francophone literature, from 21 to 25 May: UCT, UKZN, WITS. Biography… Read more
  • open book banner
    Events and News

    Open Book Festival Cape Town | 6-10 Sept

    Open Book Festival at The Fugard Theatre is an annual literary festival, the first of which happened in 2011. The hubs will once again be the Fugard Theatre, The District 6 Museum Homecoming Centre and much-loved indie bookshop, The Book Lounge. The French Institute of South Africa (IFAS), the… Read more


According to your personal taste and interests, Frenchlinks helps you get in touch with the French speaking community and agencies in South Africa and Lesotho. Learn more...

I'm a writer of the world

Patrick Chamoiseau with Nadine Gordimer during the French Season in South Africa

See video