n Literator : Journal of Literary Criticism, Comparative Linguistics and Literary Studies - "A white fly on the sombre window pane" : the construction of Africa and identity in Breyten Breytenbach's poetry : research article

Volume 22, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0258-2279
  • E-ISSN: 2219-8237



This article explores the way in which the construction of Africa interacts with the construction of identity in the poetry written by Breyten Breytenbach. On the one hand, Breytenbach's use of the name Jan Afrika, his attempts to emphasise the African-ness of the language Afrikaans as well as the construct Afrikaner indicate a desire to locate his origins in Africa and fix his identity in relation to Africa; on the other hand, it is clear that he constantly problematises the idea of a stable identity. Imposing a narrative on Breytenbach's poetic oeuvre, it becomes clear that the 'story' of his poetry coincides with the order of events in his personal life and that his construction of Africa interacts with and determines the construction of his own identity. In conclusion it becomes clear that Breytenbach locates himself against the background of Africa from which he derives his sense of self, but at the same time takes the position of the nomad, exile, migrant or outsider because it provides him with a unique perspective and the possibilities of transgression and renewal.

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