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Fred de Vries

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Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

Review A Veil of Footsteps – Breyten Breytenbach

Here a review of Breyten Breytenbach’s A Veil of Footsteps, which will
appear in The Weekender on 6 September 2008

Most reviews of Breyten Breytenbach’s latest book A veil of footsteps (Memoir of a Nomadic Fictional Character) have missed the fact that this is essentially a travel book, albeit an unusual one. This is not a tale for the potential tourist who wants to visit the places in Breytenbach’s itinerary. Instead it’s one of those cases of travel writing where personal reflections and lack of a strong narrative eclipse tales of adventure. Hence no 4-star hotels, but plenty of introspection: A veil of footsteps stays with you, creeps into your brain where it sings beautiful bird songs.
For this book Breytenbach has assumed his alter ego of Breyten Wordfool, which has made it easier for him to sprinkle his observations with irony and self-deprecation. There are even moments where the various Breytens talk to each other.
Don’t let this literary trickery deter you. Despite its occasional surrealism and the use of the multiple self, A veil of footsteps is a highly readable travelogue written by a man in the autumn of his life, who gazes at the beauty, contradictions, death and destruction around him. Sometimes it fills him with rage, other times he revels in ecstasy, and occasionally he experiences a “powerless nostalgia”. He does this in a language of such beauty that it now and again makes you gasp for air. (more…)


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