Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson MandelaNelson Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time: an international hero whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country.
Since his triumphant release in 1990 from more than a quarter-century of imprisonment, Mandela has been at the center of the most compelling and inspiring political drama in the world. As president of the African National Congress and head of South Africas anti-apartheid movement, he was instrumental in moving the nation toward multiracial government and majority rule. He is revered everywhere as a vital force in the fight for human rights and racial equality.
The foster son of a Thembu chief, Mandela was raised in the traditional, tribal culture of his ancestors, but at an early age learned the modern, inescapable reality of what came to be called apartheid, one of the most powerful and effective systems of oppression ever conceived. In classically elegant and engrossing prose, he tells of his early years as an impoverished student and law clerk in a Jewish firm in Johannesburg, of his slow political awakening, and of his pivotal role in the rebirth of a stagnant ANC and the formation of its Youth League in the 1950s.
He describes the struggle to reconcile his political activity with his devotion to his family, the anguished breakup of his first marriage, and the painful separations from his children. He brings vividly to life the escalating political warfare in the fifties between the ANC and the government, culminating in his dramatic escapades as an underground leader and the notorious Rivonia Trial of 1964, at which he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Herecounts the surprisingly eventful twenty-seven years in prison and the complex, delicate negotiations that led both to his freedom and to the beginning of the end of apartheid. Finally he provides the ultimate inside account.
The making of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Under the apartheid government, Mandela was regarded as a terrorist and jailed on the infamous Robben Island for his role as a leader of the then-outlawed ANC. He later achieved international recognition for his leadership as president in rebuilding the country's once segregated society. Mandela dedicated his book to "my six children, Madiba and Makaziwe my first daughter who are now deceased, and to Makgatho, Makaziwe, Zenani and Zindzi, whose support and love I treasure; to my twenty-one grandchildren and three great-grandchildren who give me great pleasure; and to all my comrades, friends and fellow South Africans whom I serve and whose courage, determination and patriotism remain my source of inspiration. In the first part of the autobiography, Mandela describes his upbringing as a child and adolescent in South Africa, and being connected to the royal Thembu dynasty. His childhood name was Rolihlahla, which is loosely translated as "pulling the branch of a tree", or a euphemism for "troublemaker". Mandela describes his education at a Thembu college called Clarkebury, and later at the strict Healdtown school, where students were rigorously put in routines. He mentions his education at the University of Fort Hare , and his practice of law later on.
The year was and I was a recent graduate, in South Africa to work for the African National Congress ANC as it transitioned from liberation movement to political party and ultimately, to government. Although he had been expected, news that Mandela had arrived at the shabby headquarters of the ANC Western Cape caused great excitement. I hurried from my office and watched from the open corridor that overlooked the car park as his small entourage emerged from their Mercedes. Our regional head, Tony Yengeni, was there to open the car door. I looked down as a pair of polished shoes appeared, followed by well-pressed trousers and then, finally, the man himself. Looking relaxed and elegant, Mandela was ushered into the building.
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Nelson Mandela died quietly at his home in Johannesburg on the evening of 5 December, just as the dignitaries were gathering for the royal premiere of Justin Chadwick's epic account of his extraordinary life. In the darkness of the London cinema, the audience sat, oblivious, and watched a man being slowly, deliberately stitched into history; his rough edges planed down, his achievements set in stone. By the time the credits had rolled and the news was announced, the monument to Mandela had already been built. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a conservative film about a radical man, a movie so bowed down by the weight of responsibility that it occasionally trudges when you wish it would dance. At various stages of his turbulent life, Mandela inspired fear and loathing, adoration and awe. But Long Walk to Freedom , although made with rigour and intelligence, is largely content to print the legend and tidy the tensions.