Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Jan Smuts - Unafraid of Greatness Paperback – September 25, 2015 by Richard Steyn (Jonathan Ball Publishers)

Good recap, interesting parallels between Smuts and Mandela and fascinating insight into their promotion of reconciliation over and above retribution. Written more like a summary of history than a biography it is further burdened with the split into two parts: history and evaluation. To me it would seem appropriate if the author had from here gone the further step of combining these parts into a synthetic union, somewhat shorter and not quite so tedious, because so repetitive and even redundant. Still a good read and especially encouraging in showing how Smuts persevered through thick and thin, how he and Izy made it all those years and how gifted, bright and widely accomplished Smuts was. Fascinating what became of this uneducated herder of his fathers cattle and how impressive his learning capabilities were eg learning Greek Grammar in a single week or memorizing whole book chapters after a single hearing. I also appreciate the authors feel for history in that he shows Smuts to be very much a child of his time especially in his religious, political and scientific development and even as a family man, but also in his dealings with leaders, kings and queens of his time. Smuts was an aristocrat even as their time was passing, a true and excellent leader of the elite even as democracy was already replacing superior excellence with mediocre conformity. Somebody who valued unwavering service and sense of duty way beyond the popular acclaim of political correctness and favor.

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