Guy Butler was a substantial public figure in South Africa over the second half of the 20th century: professor, poet, playwright, autobiographer, historian, and cultural politician. Nevertheless, his is not a familiar name to the majority of South Africans and, where he is known, Butler remains a problematic figure. Author Chris Thurman's assessment of Butler's life and work also represents a response to life in South Africa preceding, during, and at the end of the apartheid era. The book is more than the study of one man, it is the examination of an era and the role of white, English-speaking liberals in South Africa. Guy Butler was seen as a 'grand old man' in South African literature rather than as a writer for a new generation of readers. Yet much of Butler's work was, and still is, subversive and intellectually compelling with an enduring literary value. His response to the South African situation presents readers with a challenge to acknowledge frankly those elements in his oeuvre that distance him from us, without losing sight of the significance it holds. This book makes use of Butler's private correspondence and unpublished archive material, combining biographical insight with criticism of his publications in various genres to offer a balanced explication of his life and work.
Publication Date: 6/1/2010