From Publishers Weekly
The South African statesman and former political prisoner bares his mind and soul in this inspiring collection of writings and interviews. Culled from Mandela's letters, notebooks, taped conversations, prison diaries, calendars, and an unfinished autobiography, the material includes reminiscences of the antiapartheid movement, lessons in revolutionary theory gleaned from his guerrilla training, vignettes of prison life, seething protests to authorities, tender missives to loved ones, canny political strategizing and quiet philosophical reflections. The entries recall moments of high drama, days of dreary routine and interludes of random strangeness, including a prison screening of Revenge of the Nerds. Mandela registers his anger at the humiliations and hardships imposed on him by apartheid, and his anguish over his long separation from his family (officials even denied his requests to attend his mother's and son's funerals). But what comes through most strongly is his steadfast resolve--"the knowledge that in your day you did your duty and lived up to the expectations of your fellow man is in itself a reward"--and a shrewd, ebullient humanity that finds and embraces the good even in his prison guards. The result is a moving account of Mandela's struggle and a testament to his triumph. Photos. (Oct.)
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He has been called the most famous person in the world. Certainly for 27 years he was the most famous prisoner until his release in 1990 and then his election in 1994 as the first president of a democratic South Africa. He was welcomed by the pope, the queen, and world leaders everywhere. But even with the shelves of books by and about him, this volume of personal papers, published worldwide in 21 editions and languages, adds much that has never been said before about Nelson Mandela, including diary entries from his time in the underground, debates about passive resistance and guerrilla warfare, letters from prison, and recorded reminiscences with former fellow prisoners. Mandela knew that his letters, even those to his young daughters, might not get past the prison censors, so he kept copies in a journal that was always with him. Now official archivists have arranged this material chronologically, including some facsimiles in Mandela’s own handwriting. Yes, readers will skip some of the bits and pieces, but not much. He is as eloquent about the personal, such as his two-year “honeymoon” with his wife, Winnie (“We kept warning each other we were living on borrowed time”), as he is about the universal (his letter from Robben Island to the authorities about the rights of prisoners). Sure to spark debate is Mandela’s answer to the famous criticism that he hurt his family to help the nation: he had to do it because “hundreds, millions, in our country are suffering.” With a foreword by Barack Obama, this insightful volume includes a time line, map, and detailed notes on related people, places, and events. --Hazel Rochman
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