Laurens van der Post -- fantasist extraordinaire
But according to a new biography, ''Teller of Many Tales: The Lives of Laurens van der Post,'' by the British journalist J. D. F. Jones, published here last month by Carroll & Graf, van der Post was a fraud who deceived people about everything from the amount of time he actually spent with the Bushmen to his military record during World War II. His claim that he had brokered the settlement in the Rhodesian civil war was a lie as was his insistence that he was a close friend of Jung's, Mr. Jones says.
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And when it came to women, der Post was a bounder. In the early 1950's, when he was 46, he seduced the 14-year-old daughter of a wealthy South African winemaking family, who had been entrusted to his care during a sea voyage. She became pregnant, and although he sent her a small stipend, he never publicly acknowledged the daughter born of the relationship.
''I discovered to my astonishment that not a single word he ever wrote or ever said could necessarily be believed,'' Mr. Jones said in an interview from his home in Somerset, England. ''He was a compulsive fantasist.''
When ''Teller of Many Tales'' was published in Britain last year, under the title ''Storyteller: The Many Lives of Laurens van der Post,'' it created a mini-sensation. The book had a gleeful reception in many British newspapers. The reviewer for The Economist of London called the book ''hilarious.'' The Daily Telegraph said it was ''bold, brilliantly researched and fascinating,'' though a critic for The Spectator dissented, calling it ''an utterly ruthless hatchet job.'' Lucia Crichton-Miller, van der Post's daughter, also offered a passionate defense of her father. ''I think it a profoundly dishonest book,'' she said from London. ''The worst is the malign selection of evidence.''
Mr. Jones knew van der Post slightly, he said, and had been an admirer of his early work. ''You have never in your life met a man so charming,'' he said. ''It was staggering.''
In the 1970's van der Post met Prince Charles through mutual friends. In 1987 he took Charles on a four-day trip to the Kalahari, telling the prince, ''This is the real Africa.'' Mr. Jones states that sometime in the mid-70's, Charles began having psychoanalytic treatment with Ingaret, who was a Jungian analyst, and then with van der Post's friend Dr. Alan McGlashan. Diana, Princess of Wales, was also treated by Dr. McGlashan during the troubles in her marriage, Mr. Jones writes.
Charles told van der Post his dreams, and van der Post drafted some of his speeches. When van der Post died, Charles set up an annual lecture in his honor.
But van der Post's most significant influence occurred during the South African struggle over apartheid, Mr. Jones says. Van der Post hated Nelson Mandela and championed the Zulu chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, whom he saw as a foil for the African National Congress's Communist beliefs. He arranged meetings between Chief Buthelezi, Charles and Mrs. Thatcher. Mr. Jones argues that van der Post had helped convince Mrs. Thatcher to oppose sanctions against the South African government and not to embrace Mr. Mandela.
As van der Post lay dying, Mr. Jones says, Charles visited him. At his memorial service, Lady Thatcher read the lesson and Chief Buthelezi spoke. Nonetheless, Mr. Jones writes, there were apparently some who doubted van der Post even when he was alive.
Mr. Jones says that when a doctor who knew him was asked the cause of his death, the doctor replied, ''He was weary of sustaining so many lies.'