Guy Butler dies

2001-04-27 16:22

Grahamstown - Internationally renowned South African writer, poet and academic, Professor Frederick "Guy" Butler, 83, died in his sleep at his Grahamstown home on Thursday night.

His son, David, said his death followed a short illness.

Butler, commonly known as Guy, was born in the Eastern Cape town of Cradock in 1918. His literary output included numerous essays, autobiographies, poems and works of fiction and non-fiction.

He was also a driving force behind the revival of the Grahamstown National Arts Festival.

He began writing during military service in North Africa and Europe during the World War Two.

Butler studied and edited diaries of colonial settlers and edited an influential broadsheet of contemporary poetry, New Coin.

His first play, The Dam, took a prize at the Van Riebeeck Festival in 1953.

Other works included The Dove Returns, Take Root or Die, and Cape Charade.

Stranger to Europe contained some of Butler's first poetry. Other poetry volumes include Selected Poems, Songs and Ballads, and Pilgrimage to Dias Cross.

His two volume autobiography, Karoo Morning and Bursting World traced his life from the early memories to the war.

Butler studied at Oxford University and taught at Rhodes University.

'Butler brought arts to the public'

Butler led the Department of English at Rhodes University as Professor and Head from 1953 to 1978.

He helped establish the Department of Speech and Drama, the Journalism and Media Studies Department, the Institute for the Study of English in Africa, the National English Literary Museum, the department of Linguistics and English Language and the Shakespeare Society of Southern Africa.

"So far as I know, Guy Butler has been one of the most distinctive intellectuals in recent South African history, and not least for his efforts to bring such things as the arts to an ever-wider public, moving outwards from the university rather than remaining immured within it," friend and fellow writer Stephen Watson said in an introduction to one of Butler's books.

He leaves behind his wife, Jean, and their four adult children David, Jane, Christopher and Patrick.

"It is a huge loss. He has been a big influence in all of our lives. But he lived a very full life and was intellectually vigorous to the end," David Butler said. - Sapa