Breyten Breytenbach (born September 16, 1939) is a South African writer and painter with French citizenship.
Breyten Breytenbach was born in Bonnievale in the Western Cape, approximately 180 km from Cape Town and 100 km from the southernmost tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas. He studied fine arts at the University of Cape Town and became a committed opponent of the long held policy of apartheid. He left South Africa for Paris in the early 1960s. When he married a French woman of Vietnamese ancestry, he was not allowed to return: The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (1949) and The Immorality Act (1950) made it a criminal offence for a white person to have any sexual relations with a person of a different race.
In France he was a founder member of Okhela, a resistance group fighting apartheid in exile. On an illegal trip to South Africa in 1975 he was betrayed, arrested and sentenced to nine years of imprisonment for high treason: his work The True Confessions of an Albino Terrorist describes aspects of his imprisonment. Released in 1982 as a result of massive international intervention he returned to Paris and obtained French citizenship.
He currently divides his time between Europe, Africa, and the United States. He joined the University of Cape Town as a visiting professor in the Graduate School of Humanities (from January 2000) and is also involved with the GorÃ©e Institute in Dakar (Senegal) and with New York University.
The work of Breytenbach includes numerous volumes of poetry, novels, and essays, many of which are in Afrikaans, many translated from Afrikaans to English, and many published originally in English. He is also known for his works of pictorial arts. Exhibitions of his paintings and prints were shown in numerous cities around the world including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Paris, Brussels, Edinburgh and New York.
Breytenbach was described as the only example of a "nice South African" in the song "I've Never Met A Nice South African". The song was written by John Lloyd for the satirical British TV series, Spitting Image.
He is the brother of Jan Breytenbach, founder of the South African Special Forces.