Mandela: My Prisoner, My Friend

Christo Brand, Author, Barbara Jones, Author
Christo Brand, with Barbara Jones. St. Martin's/Dunne, $26.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-05526-2
Reviewed on: 08/18/2014
Release date: 11/18/2014
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In June 1964, Nelson Mandela arrived at South Africa's Robben Island Prison, convicted of sabotage and given a life sentence. Fourteen years later, Brand, a relatively apolitical 18-year-old Afrikaner, arrived as a new guard. When, in 1982, Mandela was moved to Pollsmoor Prison, chance placed Brand there as well. This memoir is an account of the bond that formed slowly between the two over the course of three decades. Brand begins by reporting the advice he received from his father, who "would not tolerate [him] disrespecting older people of any colour." By the end, Mandela is the one giving Brand stern but compassionate fatherly advice. Brand's position on the opposite side of the bars from his famous charge gives him a fascinating perspective on an oft-told story. He paints a vivid picture of prison life in South Africa at the time, with its racial discrimination—no bread was given to black prisoners—and the guards' own isolation from news of the outside world. The central focus of this extraordinary book, however, is a remarkable friendship that bridged age, race, and politics, as Mandela went from prisoner to secret negotiator, and eventually became a revered president. (Nov.)
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