On the Contrary: André Brink and his Oeuvre

A conference at the University of Pretoria, 22, 23 March 2013

If there is one thread running through André Brink's oeuvre, it is his characters' consistent rejection of the status quo. Whether they confront the world of the church, of the apartheid state, of patriarchy, of colonial legacy, or of the new dispensation in South Africa, they insist on saying, along with Estienne Barbier, "on the contrary" (from the novel by the same title), and on not accepting anyone else's representation of the world. It is an attitude which can be ascribed not only to all of Brink's characters but also to their author.

In his work, Brink interrogates power, violence, and inequality by probing silences: those of the past and those which threaten the new, democratic dispensation in South Africa. He is a consummate story-teller whose ability to penetrate those silences has enthralled readers around the world. But above all, at the heart of his writing lies the human condition as he turns to love, myth and history for inspiration.

We engage with the complexity of the Brink oeuvre: the tensions between his conventional conservative upbringing and his later cultural and literary multilingualism which so vividly find expression in his work; his own contributions to literary studies as a scholar and critic; his experimentation with narrative techniques, form and content; the generic variety of his work, recognised and acclaimed in the fields of drama, youth literature, the novel, biography, travel writing and other forms of non-fiction (as varied as coffee-table books on brandy and dessert wine, or photography); and the multifaceted aspects of his novels which range from historical to contemporary, realist to magic-realist, political to allegorical.

For more information contact: Prof. Willie Burger: and Karina Szczurek:


University of Pretoria, 22, 23 March 2013
Friday 22 March
Arrival and registration

17:00 – 18:30
Conversation between André Brink and Ingrid Winterbach
Readings from their work

Book Launch – Contrary: Critical Responses to the Novels of André Brink
Dinner – Adler’s Restaurant

Saturday 23 March

8:30 – 10:00 Session 1: Early Oeuvre & Influences
Questioning and Saying No: Creolising Existentialism in The Ambassador
Hein Viljoen
A perverse addiction to everything French” or Brink and the French Literary Theorists Revisited
Marius Crous
Wilderness and Civilization: Transgressing Frontiers in André Brink’s An Instant in the Wind
Karina Magdalena Szczurek

10:00 – 10:30 Tea

10:30 – 12:00 Session 2: Contexts
Philomela X or the story of silenced identities – André Brink’s The Other Side of Silence
Tatjana Pavlov-West
Hanna X, Tessa, Magrieta, Philida etcetera: The Nature of Brink’s Picaras
Neil Cochrane
Biblical Mythology in André Brink’s Political Fiction
Isidore Diala

12:00 – 13:30 Lunch

13:30 – 15:00 Session 3: History and Fiction
Brink and Collective Memory of Original Violence: Repression and Triumph
Natalia Borowska
Chains of Voices – Subjectivity, Multiperspectivity and Historical ‘Truth’ in the Novels of André Brink
Jochen Petzold
Questioning the Volksmoeder Discourse in André Brink’s Imaginings of Sand
Małgorzata Drwal

15:00 – 15:30 Tea

15:30 – 16:30 Session 4: Language and Music
Where Boundaries Blur: André Brink As Writer, Translator, Self-Translator and Bilingual Writer
Lelanie de Roubaix
Music: André Brink’s Constant Fellow Traveller
Vanessa Blom

16:45 – 17:45 Session 5: Philida
Animals and Gender in Philida by André Brink
Andries Visagie
Brink’s Archaeology of Freedom
Willie Burger

Informal drinks and farewell