A Chain of Voices Essay - Critical Essays

André Brink

Critical Context

André Brink is in the fore*ont of Afrikaans writers who address apartheid, the policies of racial segregation, in their native South Africa. As the leading spokesman of the “Sestigers,” the Men of the Sixties, he rejected the narrowness of local realism in favor of a more committed, experimental fiction. In A Chain of Voices, his seventh novel, he creates his most complex, elaborate examination of the historical origins of racism and sexism in South Africa. Working to break down taboos on the topics of sex and religion in the national literature, Brink has won not only major literary prizes in South Africa but also Great Britain’s Martin Luther King Memorial Prize for literature which best reflects the ideals of Dr. King. In addition, France has bestowed upon him the Prix Medicis Etranger. Having work published in twenty countries, Brink is one of the leading dissident white voices contributing to the understanding of apartheid.

As an “insider” in the culture of whose history A Chain of Voices is fashioned, Brink brings his readers into direct contact with ordinary men and women, black and white, who created the nation of South Africa. The juxtaposition of multiple points of view over the three generations takes readers further into the complex religious conviction and institutional racism that feed each other in the Afrikaner psyche. Brink’s tone is clearly empathetic with the historical struggle of the Boers in South Africa, yet the detailed brutality that Afrikaners inflict upon one another and upon themselves leaves little doubt that Brink opposes vehemently the rationale for apartheid. To oppose a government that has banned more than one of his novels and that seeks, with a maze of complicated censorship laws, to repress any criticism of its official adherence to segregation and to continue to write and risk imprisonment is testimony enough that Brink is one of the more courageous novelists of the late twentieth century.