Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, Author Little Brown and Company $24.45 (558p) ISBN 978-0-316-54585-3
This fluid memoir matches South African President Mandela's stately grace with wise reflection on his life and the freedom struggle that defined it. Mandela began this book in 1975, during his 27-year imprisonment. He has fleshed out a sweeping story that begins in the rural Transkei in 1918 and moves beyond, especially to Johannesburg, where he became politically active as one of only a few black African lawyers. As an African National Congress leader, this military novice helped launch an armed struggle against the intransigent apartheid government, then eloquently explained his political convictions when on trial in 1964 for sabotage. Perhaps the most powerful passages involve the Robben Island prison, where political prisoners formed a ``university'' and Mandela read books like War and Peace, resisting embitterment and finding decency even in callous Afrikaner jailers. Moved to a mainland prison in 1985, Mandela, unable to consult with exiled ANC leaders, initiated intricate negotiations with the government; the story fascinates. This book-perhaps out of diplomacy and haste-covers the period since Mandela's 1990 release with less nuance and candor than other recent accounts; still his belief in repairing his country inspires. Mandela's family life has involved much sadness: he was not permitted a contact visit with wife Winnie for 21 years, was separated from his two young children and split with Winnie after his release, although he supported her during her 1991 conviction for kidnapping (a sentence she is appealing). ``In South Africa,'' he notes, ``a man who tried to fulfill his duty to his people was inevitably ripped from his family and his home.'' Photos not seen by PW. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 07/03/2000
Release date: 07/01/2000
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