What the Butler Didn't See

Review of Guy Butler: Reassessing a South African Literary Life, by Chris Thurman (Scottsville: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2010) in South African Journal of Science, (2011). (PDF). In an introduction titled ‘Fault lines’, Chris Thurman quite candidly sets out the challenges to the would-be biographer of Guy Butler.  The many roles encompassed by his subject – as academic, essayist, poet, playwright, Christian, historian, autobiographer, cultural spokesman – form one set of difficulties.  Then there is the fact that the kind of embitterment, emotional turmoil and general spitefulness that one expects (and, dare one say, looks forward to) in a literary biography is largely absent: the subject was by most accounts a devoted husband and churchman who maintained that he spent ‘a good life in a lovable world’... (Continue reading)