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“Being Included Felt Like a Form of Exorcism” – Karina M Szczurek on The Love Letters of André Brink and Ingrid Jonker

Flame in the SnowVlam in die sneeuKarina M Szczurek has written a moving essay in which she reflects on the experience of having her late husband André Brink‘s love letters to Ingrid Jonker published and scrutinised by the entire world.

These intimate writings have now been published in Afrikaans (Vlam in die sneeu: Die liefdesbriewe van André P Brink en Ingrid Jonker) and English (Flame in the Snow: The Love Letters of André Brink and Ingrid Jonker), translated by Leon de Kock and Karin Schimke, and edited by Francis Galloway.

In the piece, titled “The heart has spaces”, Szczurek shares more about her marriage to Brink and her knowing, from the start, of the “life-defining relationship of his youth with Ingrid Jonker”.

“Coming to live with André in the South African spring of 2005, I very quickly realised that in order to know him – truly know him – I had to understand what had happened between him and Ingrid 40 years earlier. We both had to. No other woman in André’s life had left as indelible a mark on him as Ingrid. No other haunted me as much in the beginning of our relationship,” the Invisible Others author writes.

Remembering the time she first read the love letters – which happened during their engagement, two years after she met Brink while he was working on the translation of Jonker’s poems for Black Butterflies – Szczurek writes: “The title for the collection followed from a suggestion I’d made. Being included felt like a form of exorcism.”

Read the article for more about the enormous literary project that is Flame in the Snow and how Szczurek, the last woman to love Brink, was involved in his famous love affair with Jonker:

In the beginning there were the women of his past, a ghost among them. André Brink had never been afraid to love. After the life-defining relationship of his youth with Ingrid Jonker, her suicide, and four divorces, at the age of 69 he had the guts to say yes to a delicate possibility.

When we met in Austria towards the end of 2004 I was terribly young, on the verge of a divorce, broken by betrayals, and almost paralysed by mistrust. Continents and cultures apart, 42 years between us, the odds staked against us could not have been higher. Yet we somehow mustered enough courage to dare the impossible and turn it into reality. For ten years, the first thing we did every morning after waking up next to each other was to smile. No matter what. Of course it hadn’t been easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is. And coming to terms with our respective pasts was our greatest challenge.

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