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Review of Mouroir and Voice Over in Review of Contemporary Fiction

from Brian Evenson, Review of Contemporary Fiction – “Mouroir,  Mirror Notes of a Novel & Voice Over: A Nomadic Conversation with Mahmoud Darwish, by Breyten Breytenbach,” a review of Mouroir and Voice Over


Long out of print (it was originally published in 1984), Mouroir might as a novel, a series of stories, essays, prose poems, philosophical reflections, notes, or fragments, but is at the same time none of the things. Indeed, the power of this book, written by South African writ Breytenbach when he was imprisoned for seven years, lies in just th these are pieces that cannot be pinned down. Here, the boundaries the real and the magical are blurry, here the poetic and the lyrical c abruptly up into something painfully real. They are flights of the ima written during a time of physical immobility. Though a few don’t am much, the majority of them develop in surprising and satisfying way Breytenbach’s English, inflected as it is by the logic of poetry and dr his native Afrikaans, and by French, is surprising as well: a mortal w for instance, might be described as having “an odd odor, the dank a distant smell of a wing.” At its best (in, for instance, pieces such as “Wiederholen,” and “A Pattern of Bullets”), Mouroir is replete with st gestures and startling imagery. Often too, Breytenbach has a way of reality back on itself that makes the metafictional seem deadly serio engaged while still remaining playful. Mouroir is a complex, importa Voice Over, published simultaneously, is a twelve-section poem writ an homage to Mahmoud Darwish. It converses with Darwish after hi continuing to wrestle with his presence and his poetry. Whereas Mo makes the most of ambiguity and shapelessness, Voice Over shows Breytenbach to be equally talented when working in a more directed formal space.

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