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Patricia Schonstein

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The spectacular Breyten Breytenbach Boekefees

The Breyten Breytenbach Boekefees must surely rank as one of the best literary festivals held so far this year.

It took place from 3 to 5 July in Montagu, which is situated in the embrace of the Langeberg and Riviersonderend mountain ranges and overlooked by the spectacular Bloupunt peak. The venue was the large-yet-intmate, high-ceilinged, generously-windowed lounge of the Montague Country Hotel. This is a veritable museum of Art Deco run by Gert Lubbe.

Our excellent and most appreciative audiences sat on deep, comfortable, plush couches and armchairs, under chandeliers, next to cabinets of Art Deco tea sets and collectables.

The Boekefees was meticulously organised and run by Darryl David and Helen Gooderson who brought together an interesting, extremely generous group of English and Afrikaans authors and poets. I felt most privileged to be among them as we celebrated literature in its various forms: Novel, memoir, poetry, gritty-informative-fascinating non-fiction plus some cookery and spectacular photography. It was altogether a banquet of creativity and everyone was happy. Each night we had a crisp view of the waning half moon. Mars and Venus were bright and close.

The highlight was undoubtedly the launch by Lindsay Johns of Alex La Guma: a Colossus Revisited. This features three of La Guma’s stories: A Walk in the Night; The Stone Country; and Time of the Butcherbird. Lindsay, who came out especially from England, gave a masterful resume of La Guma’s life and contribution to the South African literary canon. La Guma is often described as a ‘South African Charles Dickens’ yet he remains one of the country’s unsung literary heroes, whose books were once banned. He was a highly accomplished storyteller and an unwavering supporter of the poor, disenfranchised and oppressed, so his themes remain universal and timeless.

Terry and Barbara Bell kindly accompanied his widow, Mrs Blanche La Guma, from Cape Town and Lindsay presented her with the first copy ‘hot off the press’. It was a pleasure to share her joy. What a sweet, gracious lady!

The Festival concluded with a wonderful show by the Afrikaans singer and performer,Emile Minnie.

The Breyten Breytenbach Boekefees Literary Festival is one of the projects of the Rural Arts Development Foundation. Take a look at the work of this wonderful organisation: http://www.radfoundation.co.za/

Review by Terry Bell of Alex La Guma: a Colossus Revisited : http://groundup.org.za/article/novels-south-africas-dickens-given-new-life_3096

 

Mrs La Guma receiving first copy

Mrs La Guma receiving first copy

Reading from Africa! My Africa! at BBB

Reading from Africa! My Africa! at BBB

 

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