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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry

Voice Over

Breyten Breytenbach

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To purchase Voice Over

Title: Voice Over
Author: Breyten Breytenbach
Genre: Poetry
Written: 2009
Length: 45 pages
Availability: Voice Over - US
  • A Nomadic Conversation with Mahmoud Darwish
  • With a Note by the author

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Our Assessment:

A- : appealing homage

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Voice Over is a small, twelve-part sequence of poems Breyten Breytenbach wrote after the death of his friend, Mahmoud Darwish. As Breytenbach explains in a brief afterword:

The present 'collage' touches upon transformed 'variations' of his work, at times plucked from different poems and then again by way of approaching a specific verse, with my own voice woven into the process. The images, and to an extent even the rhythms and the shaping, are his.
       In the poems he admits (and displays) as much as well:
the poem is but a geeing of dice
shimmering in a dancer-dark cone
or maybe not        and words flutter
like feathers to the sand
I have no role in this writing

except beholden to the rhythm
of its budging emotions        how one sensation
anvils and bevels the other        and an inkling
of meaning betoken        and busying
a trance in the nightsound of words
       Beginning with poems that still look prospectively to what has come to pass -- the first line is: "when you die Mahmoud", and the second requests: "drape no flag over my coffin", for example -- Darwish remains a presence throughout, alive not only in the words and echoes of the poems that Breytenbach appropriates but also in how Breytenbach relates to him. While there is no real dialogue here, it is, indeed, a conversation of sorts.
       Breytenbach's homage ranges from the introspective to the much broader, including the most obviously idealistic-political sequence with the variations in its refrain on: "we shall be a people". The contrast between "poetry in catastrophic times" -- which applies to the experiences of both authors -- and the very personal works well here.
       Voice Over is a short but affecting sequence, with a slightly experimental feel to it, its author trying to come to grips with the death of his friend and colleague through a variety of approaches.
       A beautiful little pocket-sized pamphlet-volume, it is well-worthwhile.

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Voice Over: Breyten Breytenbach: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       South African author Breyten Breytenbach was born in 1939.

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© 2009-2022 the complete review

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