Two Unsent Letters from Ingrid Jonker to André Brink


A small bundle of Ingrid Jonker’s papers survived the theft, sale and disappearance of the bulk of her literary estate, and ended up, via a circuitous route, in the Special Collections at the Gerricke Library at the University of Stellenbosch. There they have remained in a safe for thirteen years, under embargo.

My friend Ílyas Tunç, who has translated many South African poets into Turkish, is busy creating a Turkish book on Jonker, and asked me if there were any papers available. I remembered the stuff at Stellenbosch. There’s not a lot of material, but it’s interesting stuff, including love-letters, photographs and clippings.

After some wrangling, the embargo has been lifted. I went there yesterday, and they allowed me to photograph the materials. Copyright on Jonker’s material expired in 2015.

This means that there is no restriction on their publication, and I have decided to set them free. If you want to, you can go to the Gerricke Library (do call them for an appointment) and see these things yourself. They will have a different resonance for most people to what they have for me, since I knew the people involved, albeit long ago. But something of their passion comes through in their materiality. The coffee-stain on the letter, the marginal note, all give a feeling of the physical presence of those actors in our literary heritage.

Included in the bundle are two unsent letters from Ingrid Jonker to André Brink. A note in another hand (perhaps that of Anna Jonker, Ingrid’s sister or possibly Petrovna Mettlerkamp, a Jonker biographer) mentions that the letters were ‘discovered among Uys Krige’s papers after his death in 1988.’

Here’s Janet Malcolm on the unsent letter, taken from her magisterial book on Plath and Hughes, The Silent Woman.


And here are the letters, with the accompanying notes. Please click on them to see them at a reasonable size. In the gallery, if you right-click on an individual image and select ‘view image’ you can see it a bit bigger. More Jonker letters here and here.



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