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All One Horse Paperback – Deckle Edge, August 22, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

South African poet Breytenbach (True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist) offers a dreamy take on the artistic impulse in these 27 short prose fictions. Many are slyly couched as fables; each has a facing page watercolor in Breytenbach's own hand. The poet's role—as the book's consistent speaker notes in This Unmemorable Memory Exists!—is like that of a tree: to create a space, to consecrate absence, to be a place where oblivion could be predicated and practiced endlessly. In Between the Legs, the narrator finds God is Word or Flesh or some such; repeatedly uses the Holocaust codeword Sonderbehandlüng (it's not translated, but it means special handling); and ends by noting God 'is a Brazilian'. Near book's end, in Bathed in Tears, the speaker confronts an imposter brother—who may be a symbol of artistic fraudulence—with a knife and tries to skin his hands. Surreal and opaque, Breytenbach's self-described minor squibs on where art comes from (written in the mid-1980s and seeing their first U.S. publication) are equal parts violence and whimsy. (Sept.) ""
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Here is a bargain: the two astonishing talents of Breyten Breytenbach for the price of one, beautifully gift-wrapped free of charge. Sharp words in terse sentences compose brief fables to accompany lovely grotesque allegorical images, often of men with inquiring penises. A book that makes you want to get spanked.—William Gass

An immensely gifted writer, able to descend effortlessly into the Africa of the poetic unconscious and return with the rhythm and the words, the words in the rhythm that give life. —J.M. Coetzee

Breytenbach’s passionate desire to know and serve the truth, whatever it may be and whomever it may offend, is deeply admirable.The Washington Post

It is impossible to stop our ears against the excruciating power of what Breytenbach has to say. —Nadine Gordimer

[Return to Paradise] is written with a wild heart and an unrelenting eye, and is fueled by the sort of rage that produces great literature. The Washington Post

No white South African writer has penetrated as deeply into his own country as Breytenbach—and none has been as successful in the flowering of his art in exile. —Donald Woods

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 115 pages
  • Publisher: Archipelago; First North American Edition edition (August 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979333075
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979333071
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,889,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By G. Cingal ( on December 4, 1998
Format: Paperback
In this brief but brilliant book, the South African writer Breyten Breytenbach (who wrote poems in Afrikaans in the 1960s and then moved on to painting and to writing most of his stories and novels directly in English) presents the reader with short narratives and watercolours. There is an equal number of texts and images.
The texts can be either read as short stories or as prose poems. The title of each text is the last line or the last phrase of the text. Readers familiar with Breytenbach's metaphorical and (to some extent) allegorical universe won't be surprised with the stories, though the phrasings and the arty rhythmical intricacies are at their most consummate and their most enigmatic here.
It is difficult to take the watercolours separately from the texts, because they are obviously meant to be "read" together with the stories. There are echoes between most of the situations that can be found in the narratives and the recurrent motifs that give depth to the watercolours.
Breytenbach is a deliberately and extremely figurative artist. His practice is very different from the general tendency to more and more abstraction.
And yet, the paintings are also fully post-modern. Literally speaking, the watercolours are amazing; we are lost in some kind of labyrinth, where enigmas seem to be impossible to solve. The same motifs keep coming back (pens, brushes, horse-shaped animals) but, instead of providing clear-cut links with either the stories or the similar motifs in other paintings, the recurrent motifs are confusing. In fact, Breytenbach demonstrates superbly the power of illusion: small details can be apprehended separately but can never really make a whole. The search for unity or homogeneity is but a mere illusion: variety and versatility ensure creative as well as political freedom.
Everything is the same ("all one horse"), except when it isn't.
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