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John Carlin Believes Oscar Pistorius is Neither a Saint nor a Villain, but a Complex Human Being

Chase Your ShadowIn a fascinating and well considered article for the Mail & Guardian, Phillip de Wet sums up John Carlin’s latest book, Chase Your Shadow: The Trials of Oscar Pistorius.

De Wet says Carlin is “searing in his appraisal” of the South African media, which he calls “blinded by bias against Pistorius”. But he is also unwilling to submit to the two dominant societal views of Pistorius, as either “a saint, martyred by the state because of a tragic accident”, or “a cold-blooded murderer”.

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Carlin, neither sympathetic to nor respectful of either viewpoint, insists on seeing Pistorius as human, with flaws and redeeming qualities. He draws the reader to the same muddled and uncomfortable understanding. For that Carlin is unrepentant.

“It is something we do all the time, with famous people, with public figures, with politicians, even with political issues. We have a tendency always to try to clarify the unclarifiable, to simplify, to caricaturise,” Carlin says. “And my attempt was to paint the portrait of a complex and, I think, fascinating human being. That may generate feelings of rejection and disgust among people, but I hope above all else it generates some degree of sympathy and a sense of, ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’

“If your starting point is that Pistorius is a monster then you will find this book shockingly sympathetic. But I am absolutely sure, too, that the whole sector of people around the world who believe him to be this heroic, saintlike figure will be equally disappointed.”

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