“Stay Well with All Our Secrets” – Ingrid Jonker’s Last Letter to Andre Brink in Flame in the Snow
Karin Schimke recently wrote an article for Marie Claire about Flame in the Snow: The Love Letters of André Brink and Ingrid Jonker.
Schimke en Leon de Kock were responsible for the translation of the collection of letters, which is also available in Afrikaans as Vlam in die sneeu: Die liefdesbriewe van André P Brink en Ingrid Jonker.
In the article, Schimke writes tenderly about Jonker’s suicide and how Brink responded to the public scrutiny and gossip. She also shares a line from the last letter Jonker ever wrote to Brink.
Schimke spoke to the people who were involved in helping these precious love letters see the light: Umuzi publisher Fourie Botha and Brink’s widow Karina Magdalena Szczurek, as well as to Willie Burger, professor of Afrikaans at the University of Pretoria, who said:
“The letters are a knock-out blow to the idea that she was a bubble-headed blonde with a few good verses. She displays clear political thinking, good literary discernment and sharp insight. She had a particularly difficult life. Towards the end of the correspondence it becomes clear that her loneliness has become more desperate, while he slowly withdraws. It’s the stuff good novels are made of.”
Read the article for more about Jonker’s last days and her final letter to Brink:
In the weeks before her suicide, friends noticed a change in Ingrid. Where once she had taken enormous pride in her looks, she had become sloppy. Her cheerfulness had receded into an almost constant bleakness. An extremely difficult childhood and adult life, and a possibly genetic predisposition towards depression and anxiety, had caught up with her. She was poor, had worked in soul-destroying bureaucratic jobs and could not find safety and succour from the maddening world with any of the men who loved her. It is clear, from all the literature available – and now these letters – that the talented poet Ingrid Jonker had run out of the emotional resources required to go on with life.
Her last letter to André ends: ‘Stay well with all our secrets…’
For extracts in English and Afrikaans, quotes from the contributors, articles and more news about Flame in the Snow, visit the website www.flameinthesnow.co.za:
- “Being Included Felt Like a Form of Exorcism” – Karina M Szczurek on The Love Letters of André Brink and Ingrid Jonker
- Watch a Moving Interview with Andre Brink and Ingrid Jonker’s Loved Ones, Talking About Flame in the Snow
- Flame in the Snow: The Love Letters of André Brink and Ingrid Jonker translated by Leon de Kock and Karin Schimke, edited by Francis Galloway
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