Original Research

Breyten Breytenbach se Boek: die taal (poësie) as voelinstrument om bewussyn te verken

W. Burger
Literator | Vol 26, No 3 | a234 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v26i3.234 | © 2005 W. Burger | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 July 2005 | Published: 31 July 2005

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W. Burger, Departement Afrikaans, Universiteit van Johannesburg, South Africa

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Breyten Breytenbach’s Boek: language (poetry) as feelinginstrument to explore consciousness

One of the big questions of science is the mystery of consciousness. How is it possible that a state of consciousness, an awareness of your own being and actions, can originate from matter, from the movement of neurons in nerve tissue? While neuroscience does not have answers to these questions (yet), the subjective exploration of consciousness by means of works of art, could make a valuable contribution. Breyten Breytenbach explicitly views his art (writing and painting) as ways to investigate consciousness.

In “Boek” (1987) Breytenbach explains his views on art. In this complex work, he focusses, among other aspects, on the idea that the work of art, at a specific moment, produces an “other”, a meaning that has not hitherto existed somewhere, waiting to be discovered. This hitherto unknown meaning comes into existence in the moment of creation.

The creative moment in which the hitherto unknown is wrestled from the known, cannot be produced by following a recipe. The unknown, the other, virtually invades the world of the artist, as if the work of art happens to the artist, instead of him creating it. This experience has a changing effect on the artist and in the process he learns more about his own consciousness.

The changing effect is not restricted to the artist, as the reader of the poem shares this experience. Because the reader is also writer, according to Breytenbach, the work of art is recreated by the reader and the reader has the same experience of a virtual invasion of the “other” on his/her own life and in the process also discovers more about his/her own consciousness.


Boek; Prison Literature; Breyten Breytenbach; Consciousness; Poetry; Functions Of Art


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