Monthly Archives: March 2015

Off the grid

I’m an introvert. I like solitude & quiet. People are extremely important to me, but I am not a crowd person. Let me drink tea and talk to a friend for hours in the safety of my study & I’m happiest. I love being silent with others. When you can be comfortably silent in the company of another person, hold on tight to them. They are precious.

I have had a decade of sharing beauty and treasured silence with André. We spent almost every hour of every day together. In all these years, we were only a few times apart at night.

Now?
Now…

I have never been afraid of solitude. I’m not afraid of the dark. I’m good at being alone. Since I live mostly in my head, I can be alone anywhere with myself and be content.

I know loneliness. We have met and reached a quiet understanding. She understands that she can never replace solitude in my life.

Our house is full of memories. They hold me. I couldn’t return here in the darkness of that fateful night of 6 February when the last page of the most defining chapter of my life had been turned in the clouds above Brazzaville. Dear Friends took me in, said all the right words, hugged me, and then let me weep quietly through the night. In the morning, they took me home and have watched over me ever since. I do not fear the house, nor the dark. I am not alone.

The people in my life have been a source of comfort and strength. I am so proud of the kind of relationships André and I nurtured in our life together. So grateful. I’m wrapped in love and kindness.

I have never been as social as in the last few weeks. Totally out of character, but necessary and good. I’m surviving. There is very little I know. Nothing is predictable. I am only certain about knowing where I belong: here in Cape Town, home.

An orchid lives in the bath where André spent so many hours, thinking.
His suitcase remains unpacked.
I cannot wash his handkerchiefs.

I sleep in our bed.
Our cats watch over me carefully.
I bask in the sun in our wild garden.
I’m returning to reading & writing.
I dance alone at night.
I walk along the shores of the Cape.
I experience joy, deeply. Pleasure & delight have not left me.
Our family and friends have kept me sane. I’m infinitely grateful.

But I’m ready to withdraw now. I need time and space just for myself. I need to enter my headspace fully and more consciously without distraction. The need to write is stirring, taking a deep breath, inside. I need to be selfish…

This photograph was taken over Brazzaville by the wife of the doctor who was on board our flight from Amsterdam to Cape Town on 6 February at the time when her husband was called away to assist a passenger in need.
Brazzaville
I will fly again.

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Philida van de Delta

I remember the pages of the manuscripts spread all around our lounge floor: Afrikaans, English, several versions of each, all a complete muddle. André and I going around with scissors and Sellotape, piecing the different scenes together, then transferring the final ‘cut’ to the computer, editing, correcting, arguing, crying, laughing, and every inch of the way loving the story and the remarkable woman at its centre – those were the final stages of André’s last novel, Philida (2012), longlisted for the Man Booker later that year just in time for the publication.
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She arrived like all stories do, unexpected.

A phone call from a man who’d bought a farm near Franschhoek. An uncanny family connection. A museum opening. A barefoot girl with a heart full of courage. No wonder André fell in love with her. She walked straight into his imagination. And now she is stepping out of the pages of his book into the songs of her descendants.
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The people living, working and making music at Solms Delta have read Philida and turned her story into a musical.

I was invited to see the premier at the Baxter Theatre last night.
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Since André’s death, I have been unable to predict what will give me joy, what will hurt me. Everything is different now. What I believe will be difficult for me, turns out to be easy. At times, the easy stuff becomes impossible. Yesterday’s performance was utterly beautiful in all respects – simply stunning! Yet, it completely broke me. I wasn’t the only one who’d shed tears while following Philida’s moving story. I sat next to Tracey Randle, the wonderful historian who’d helped André do research for the book, and to Beverley Scott, mother of the late Alex van Heerden who, with his talent, charisma and enthusiasm, had brought music to the farm in the first place. We all cried, but I was the only one who had to leave, sobbing uncontrollably, just after the show.
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André and Alex should have been there last night, not only in the words and the music on stage, not only in our hearts…
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The beautiful young woman who sang Philida was the embodiment of André’s vision. He would have wept with all of us had he seen her come alive across space and time at the Baxter last night. The entire cast and the musicians were pure magic. They made my heart sing. The evening, though, broke it, too. And I was not prepared. I wish I could have said thank you or at least goodbye, but all I was capable of was finding refuge in the spare bedroom of my friends’ house which since early February has been on standby for such moments when being alone is not a viable option for me.
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I am humbled by the experience in all kinds of ways, and grateful. So many lives have been touched, changed, transformed for the better in all these years since we first heard Mark Solms’ message on our answering machine, that he wanted to meet, to tell us a story…
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Thank you.

PHILIDA VAN DE DELTA
at the 5th Annual Zabalaza Festival at the Baxter
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Company – Solms Delta
Writer – Members of Delta Soetstemme choir, facilitated by Amelda Brand
Director – Amelda Brand
Cast
Lyrics:
Delta Soetstemme choir, facilitated by Adriaan Brand, Leonore Bredekamp, Nick Turner, Amelda Brand and Jervis Pennington
Songs arrangement – Delta Langbroek band, musically facilitated by Adriaan Brand and Carlo Fabe
Language(s) – Afrikaans
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Performance Dates & Times:
22 March @ 18h00 – BAXTER FLIPSIDE THEATRE
27 March @ 16h00 – BAXTER Concert Hall

André Brink Tribute at the Woordfees

Writers, family and friends gathered on Saturday, 14 March 2015, in the afternoon at the Woordfees Book Tent to read from André’s work and correspondence, paying tribute and sharing stories. The event was organised by PEN Afrikaans & the Festival.

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Kerneels Breytenbach, friend, publisher, writer
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Sonja Brink, daughter
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Naas Steenkamp, friend, writer
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Abraham Phillips, writer
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Willemien Brümmer & Matthias, friend, writer, journalist
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Abraham H. de Vries, friend, writer
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Pieter Fourie, friend, playwright, director
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Antjie Krog, friend, poet, writer
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Ingrid Winterbach, friend, writer, painter
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Bettina Wyngaard, writer, activist
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Hettie Scholtz, friend, publisher, literary godmother
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Danie Marais, poet
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& I
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(Photographs: Krystian Szczurek)