CELEBRATED South African writer and outspoken apartheid critic Andre Brink, author of the novel “A Dry White Season”, has died, his university said Saturday. He was 79.
He died Friday night on board a flight home from Belgium where he had received an honorary doctorate from the Universite Catholique de Louvain (UCL).
“This news is deeply saddening, even as the circumstances of Andre’s death underscore the extraordinary life that he lived,” said professor Lesley Marx of the University of Cape Town.
Winner of several book awards and nominated three times for a Nobel prize, Brink was an emeritus professor of literature at the University of Cape Town after formally retiring in 2005.
His works, which included plays and travelogues as well as novels, were translated into some 30 languages.
He was also an outspoken critic of censorship and oppression. Apartheid rulers banned several of his works.
“The only triumph the human being can boast about is to go against the questions to try to find answers,” Brink said as he accepted the honorary doctorate in Brussels on Monday.
“If we knew the answers in advance, there wouldn’t be adventures, there wouldn’t be true choices,” he said in French.
‘Courageous and prolific’
Among the most widely known of more than 40 works was his 1979 novel “A Dry White Season”, about the death in detention of a black activist. The book was made into a film starring Marlon Brando.
That and others set him apart as a “courageous and prolific author of ... political protest,” Marx said in a statement.
Brink’s protest did not end with the collapse of apartheid.
His autobiography “A Fork in the Road”, published in 2009, offered a bleak assessment of the first 15 post-apartheid years.
“Now that the (ruling party) ANC has moved into power, its regime sadly must be branded as the enemy of the people,” he wrote.
Three years ago Brink and South African Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer led a campaign against proposals by the ANC government to push through an information bill that would have seen whistleblowers and investigative journalists face prison for revealing government secrets.
President Jacob Zuma paid tribute to Brink, describing him as a “remarkable and highly regarded scholar and academic”.
Born Andre Philippus Brink on May 29, 1935, in Vrede town in the central Free State province to a magistrate father and a mother who taught English, he wrote in both English and Afrikaans. He translated around 70 works into Afrikaans.
Brink was a key member of the Die Sestigers literary movement of the 1960s that campaigned against the apartheid government using the Afrikaans language.
Among his international awards was the Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour—France’s top civilian award granted to him in 1982.
Brink studied and lectured at some of South Africa’s leading universities and he carried out his post-graduate research at Paris’s University of Sorbonne.
He was married and divorced several times. In 2010 he told Britain’s Guardian newspaper that he had been married six times.