Stuart Cloete’s first novel sold more than 2 million copies and, more than thirty years after his death, his books are still widely read. He appeals to the modern reader because his themes, love and war, are timeless and universal. Cloete had authentic knowledge of both; he entered adulthood in the trenches of the First World War and, by his own account, ‘had been in love with one girl or another since he was six years old.’
When he began writing in the 1930s Cloete recognised that, despite his lack of formal education, he had something to say. He was nearing fourty and he had lived! He was the archetype ‘global man’ who was born in France, fought for England, lived in America and died in the land of his ancestors, South Africa. The war and his knowledge of Africa gave him enough subject matter to support a prolific career, and almost all of his novels were bestsellers.
A literary friend remarked that he stood out from his high-brow peers as something ‘real’ and this quality makes his vivid narratives highly evocative, his autobiography astoundingly honest.
Cloete was a critical observer of the changing times. He was sentimental about his Victorian childhood but avoided delusions about the past. He could criticise the modern world, while welcoming a new attitude that allowed him to indulge his sensuality in his writing. He was even post-modern; a man who could give up God and yet still think that those who had Him were better off.
Cloete left no children behind. But he did consider one young man to be like a son. Cloete was a friend and mentor to this man when he arrived in South Africa from America, and was willing to vouch for him and help launch his career. It is this man, Warren Wilmot Williams, who has commissioned this site and holds the rights to Cloete’s literary estate; a ‘kaleidoscope of memories, hopes and regrets.’