Local man plans new Breytenbach literature festival for Montagu

2012-06-12 00:00

ON New Year’s Day in Mossel Bay, after wishing family and friends all the best for 2012, I suddenly remembered what Deon Meyer once said: he always starts a new novel on New Year’s Day. Even if it is just one word, he makes a start.

Now I’m no Meyer, but I’m a man of literary festivals. For years I had tried (and failed) to start a literary festival in the name of the man I worship — Breyten Breytenbach. On January 1, I decided to follow Meyer’s advice and try once more. While my wife was making us breakfast, I got out the Garden Route and Klein Karoo guide and found 10 guesthouses listed under Montagu. Ah, the wonders of e-mail. When many a guesthouse owner was still getting over a hangover from 2011, I decided to e-mail them about my burning desire. Just to see if they were made of the right stuff. By the time I had returned from my new year’s dip in Dana Bay, I had one excited reply. Maybe from the only sober man in Montagu, I quipped. From Airlies Guesthouse where I had stayed almost seven years earlier. That’s a good sign, I thought to myself. Three days later, I had four guesthouses sold on the concept. A week later, I had a Jack Russell of an organiser on the ground in Montagu, Helen Gooderson. The Breyten Breytenbach Festival had gotten past trimester one.

Why Montagu, most people will ask? Well Breytenbach was born in Bonnievale, which is just a 20-minute drive from Montagu. And, secondly, Breytenbach had a holiday home (Paradys) in Montagu, which he wrote about in his travelogue/memoir Dog Heart.

The Breyten Breytenbach Festival will be the last festival that I pioneer. It will complete my vision for the Karoo as the literary heartland of South Africa. Today the Karoo can boast the Schreiner Festival in Cradock, the J.M. Coetzee Festival in Richmond, the Booktown in Richmond with our literary festival (BoekBedonnerd), the Fugard Festival in Nieu- Bethesda, and now the Breyten Breytenbach Festival in Montagu.

The programme was really easy to organise. This is because of the admiration writers have for the man Time Magazine described as the greatest living Afrikaans poet. The following speakers will be taking part in the inaugural Breyten Breytenbach Literary Festival from July 13 to July 14 in Montagu on the famous Route 62: Helize van Vuuren, Dana Snyman, Ampie Coetzee, Antoinette Pienaar, Francis Galloway, J.M. Gilfillan, Petra Muller, Justin Fox, Wium van Zyl, Charl -Pierre Naude, Christine Barkhuizen le Roux, Darryl David/Philippe Menache, Braam de Vries, Jeanne Vial, Fanie Olivier.

Lastly I’d like to share with you an experience I had that tells me I am on the right path. A few weeks ago, while visiting my dad, he told me he had bought a book for me. When I turned it over, it was Dog Heart, one of the few books by Breytenbach, that ironically enough, I did not own. Dr Ian Player calls this kind of coincidence synchronicity. I call it destiny.


• Darryl David was last year’s winner of the grand prize in The Witness True Stories of KZN competition. He is a lecturer in Afrikaans at UKZN and also the founder of the Midlands Literary Festival. Inquiries: 081 391 8689 or cowboys@sai.co. za

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