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-faceted 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.
Breytenbach’s 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 recognised 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 recognised 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 muséeimaginaire, the museum of works of art that can be called up by the mind’s eye, is regrettably poor. It is Saayman’s conviction that, in engaging with Breytenbach’s oeuvre, his poems, works of fiction or essays are not more important than his paintings.
Breyten Breytenbach, A Monologue in Two Voices includes a previously unpublished text by Breyten Breytenbach translated into French. The book also includes nine drawings done by Breytenbach while in prison, and published here for the first time.