Widely travelled in the Balkans, Butler wrote on a wide variety of subjects concerning his experience of the region, much of which remains deeply relevant to the recent history of Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia. He lived in Yugoslavia between 1934 and 1937, and spoke Croatian fluently. Much of Balkan Essays deals with the genocidal Quisling regime of the Independent State of Croatia (1941- 45) and the collaborationist role played by the Catholic Church and, particularly, by Archbishop Stepinac – a topic which embroiled him in a major controversy in 1950s Ireland, and continues to polarize the political and cultural life of post- communist Croatia. For the first time, the extraordinary body of Butler’s Balkan work is brought together in a single volume.
Butler’s essays do not just give insight into past events, but also into the past perceptions of those events. They are not just the story of one era, but of the self-perception of that era as well. His essays are a kind of time-capsule, and their moral attitude has an everlasting timeless quality.