Andre Brink is a leading South African writer, one of the courageous group that has spoken out against racial injustice. The author of such novels as Looking on Darkness,A Dry White Season, and A Chain of Voices, he has twice been awarded the most important South African literary prize, the CNA award—the only author to receive it both for Afrikaans and English work. In 1980 he received the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize. The article that follows is taken from Mr. Brink’s new collection of critical pieces entitled Writing in a State of Siege, copyright © 1984 by Andre Brink, and published in the United States by Summit Books, with whose kind permission it appears in our pages.
Mr. Brink has written that in selecting the essays for his book, he found that “a world where more and more violence is solving fewer and fewer problems makes the writer not less, but more, necessary.”
If the position of the English writer in South Africa is unenviable, it is at least unequivocal: his work is banned. Not all of it, of course, but if the case of Nadine Gordimer can be regarded as indicative, certainly the most accomplished, the most effective work by an English writer is liable to be banned. At the very least there are no qualms in the minds of the authorities about banning English works: these writers are traditionally regarded as enemies of the Afrikaner—so what else can be expected of them? The Afrikaans writer, on the other hand, still has the uneasy knowledge that although the authorities loathe his guts, no official action has been taken against an Afrikaans book (yet). But does that imply that the position of the Afrikaans writer is more safe and secure than that of his black, brown, or white compatriots writing in English? The matter is not so simple.