68 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2010
"Conversations With Myself" is a unique book. It is an intuitively organized compilation of excerpts from the notebooks and diaries Mandela kept while imprisoned for 27 years, personal files, correspondence, presidential speeches, interview transcripts, and the unpublished sequel to his autobiography. It is a snapshot in time, beginning before his incarceration in 1963 and ending after the post-apartheid transition period of the 1990's.
The intimacy provided by these most personal of documents is truly special. Readers will connect with Mandela not only on an intellectual basis but also on a deeply emotional level. This is Mandela the prisoner, the parent, the husband, and the president.
It is important to keep in mind that this book is an archive. It may seem somewhat disjointed if compared to narrative books. There are some draft letters, incomplete outlines, thought fragments, and journal snippets. This is the nature of an archive, and though it is well-edited, this book may take some getting used to.
Instead of one or two sections of photos in the middle of the book, readers will find copies of some of the actual source documents, mostly written in Mandela's own hand, every few pages. Several useful appendices are included: a timeline, maps, a list of abbreviations, and list of "People, Places, and Events" which I found to be indispensable.
The publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, offers a brief reading group guide on their website at fsgbooks (dot com). Even readers who are unable to participate in a group discussion like myself are likely to find this resource to be quite helpful.
"Conversations With Myself" is the perfect companion volume to Mandela's critically-acclaimed 1994 autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela : With Connections (HRW Library)" Those studying Mandela may want to start with "Long Walk To Freedom" since it begins with his childhood and covers his life up until the time he became president.
For casual readers, no prerequisite reading is necessary to enjoy this book. This is a story born out of confinement but never lonely; a tale of some sorrow but not despair; a message not of apathy but of hope. Mandela's amazing resiliency is one of the constant factors in this story.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2010
This is a rather very interesting & personal book, composed of Nelson Mandela's vast archive material in the form of letters, papers, conversations, interviews & speeches/recordings he made/written while in Robben Island as a prisoner, after his release from prison & when he was the first democratic elected President of South Africa and the book is titled "Conversations With Myself". It has been put together by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, dedicated to his grand-daughter who died in a car accident in June this year during Fifa Soccer World Cup 2010 & is foreworded by President Barack Obama.
The book outlines Nelson Mandela's views among others on leadership & as well as his fallability as a human being : he was quite 'anxious/uncomfortable' while in Robben Island that he was being regarded/portrayed as a Saint by some followers/quarters. He does not however regard himself as a Saint even though his definition of a "Saint is a sinner who keeps on trying/repenting"!
This book is an excellent read because of a diversity of material contained : it's not like a story with a plot or narrative thread. Thus this book can be studied in bits/chunks as you wish with ease without loosing 'the flow' of the book. Some of his letters/speeches reflected/presented in this book are in Nelson Mandela's own handwriting, making this book rather very personal & special (collectable). This book, "Nelson Mandela : Conversations With Myself", is a highly recommended reading from one of the most famous prisoners in the world, known for his fight for human rights (Nobel Peace Prize Winner), reconciliation & a humble personality (and hence his declaration as no Saint).
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2010
I have never read an autobiography before but is not one.It is put together by notes he made,letters he wrote and interviews.From all these bits and pieces there is a great flow and easy to read.It brings to the reader his great thoughts and views on specific events that happened to him during his life.
If you cant meet the man,see the man or get close to the man this is an alternative to get a chance to reach out to him though this book of personal letters and notes.
I recommend this to anyone to sit back and change from the trash that is pumped out from authors every day and think and feel what this great man is feeling.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2011
The latest and probably last book written or at least designed by Nelson Mandela himself. It is a trip back into our past because he is our past. As far as I remember Nelson Mandela was standing there as the "eternal" prisoner of South Africa. We signed petitions, we demonstrated, we read poems demanding his liberation, we took part in exhibitions to express our solidarity. And one day he was free and he has remained, even when he was the President of South Africa, or when we can see him in a film, documentary or fiction, that symbol of the eternal prisoner who will always stand for the want, lack and need, of liberation, for everyone everywhere to be liberated and free.
But this book goes so far beyond this simple recollection of ours. It depicts a full panorama of his life, his thoughts, and his feelings. Small details, small events, small fights, small victories that build a full story, a myth even, a dream of a future that has the deepest roots in the past. We feel his fears and his joys, his frustrations and his satisfactions when something is refused to him, when something is retained from him, when something is granted to him, even if with some grumbling and resentment. Life is a long series of small events and the magnitude of some is not in the events themselves but in the symbolical value they take in the minds and the eyes of the people who witness the events.
And Nelson Mandela is so true to life, so naïve too. When he meets Eskimos for the first time and confronts his preconceived idea of Eskimos as uneducated people living in the frozen wild and hunting polar bears with the reality of late teenagers going to school and adults who are holding important positions in society, he retains his slightly biased surprise at a reality he could not imagine before and astonishes him still. It is simple situations like that one which make the book warm and human. When he is the "victim" of autograph hunters in London he yields because they waited a whole day for him and he had promised on his honor, a promise which they remind him of.
And he enjoys these small facts, events, circumstances. That enjoyment is so visible and palpable in all the pages that we just wonder how he has been able to retain such ability to rejoice in simple facts after so many years spent in prison and at times in the worst imaginable conditions. But he does and that is the myth. Some other books, some films show him doing some ancillary simple tasks like serving tea to his guest, though he is the president of South Africa, just out of respect for that guest of his from whom he is going to ask a favor.
That tone and atmosphere in the whole book transforms it into a story that we follow page after page, five or ten pages at a time, enjoying our making it last as long as we can, stretching the pleasure over several weeks. It is a rare book for me since it forced me to go slow, read slow, enjoy the pages and the sweet South African "idiosyncrasies" of his language and the corrections that are brought to the text here and there. I just invested this book in a long period of reading instead of just running from cover to cover. And it is my main everyday task to read books and read them fast. But this one has to be read in small installments to feel its matter penetrate our minds and feel relaxed and pleasured by the simple words and the simple feelings of a man who has been the greatest inspirer of this world for at least forty years.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2012
CONVERSATIONS WITH MYSELF-
Published by MACMILLANM, 2010, 454 pages
Reviewed by KVVeloo
It would have made sense for me if I had read his biography: "Long Walk to Freedom" first before attempting to work on his conversations. I found it disjointed and difficult to follow the sequences of his life. There were too many political actors and family members on stage and keeping up with their names and positions made the conversations difficult to follow. The larger part of the book covers the conversations he had with Ahmed Kathrada, an anti-apartheid activist and leading member of ANC; and Richard Stengel, editor and author who collaborated with Mandela on his autobiography. The rest of the book is a collection of his letters to his colleagues in ANC and on family matters covering a wide range of personal matters and politics.
If one had read his autobiography first Mandela's conversations would seem superfluous except to those who would to want to enter deeper into the mind of Mandela as he struggled to keep his sanity over 28 years in prison.
To me, as I read, I felt I wish I was there in history to give a fighting hand to the freedom fighters. I felt so sorry for them- stripped of their freedom in their own land.
What the colonialists did to South Africa and, indeed, the world over in the past is unforgivable. As Mandela puts it: "The plundering of indigenous land, exploitation of its mineral wealth and other raw materials, confinement of its people to specific areas, and the restriction of their movement have, with notable exceptions, been the cornerstones of colonialism throughout the land."(pg. 395)
What the Afrikaners did to the blacks is beyond human conception.
When one reads his conversations, one cannot but empathise with his continual sorrows: the sorest of which was the demise of his mother and son. Mandela was denied the opportunity to attend both funerals. It was an unkind cut inflicted by the apartheid administration. He was particularly attached to his mother. The son died in car accident.
After visiting him in captivity, he saw his mother walking towards the boat that would bring her back to the mainland. He had a premonition that he would not see her again. In a letter to a social worker he laments: " I had entertained the hope that I would have the privilege of looking after her in old age and be on her side when the fatal hour struck" (pg. 159). Sadly this did not happen.
One of the finest speeches Mandela made before he became President was following the assassination of ANC leader Chris Hani in 1993 by one Janusz Walus, an Afrikaner (pp 337) All hell was about to break loose. He reached out to both the whites and blacks. He appealed for calm and tried to diffuse the anger among the blacks. I suppose he knew the loser will, as usual be the blacks. It reminds me of the speech Brutus made at Caesar's funeral full of emotion and anger over the killing of Caesar. Mandela's speech was powerful and some say it is of Presidential quality although he was not as yet President of South Africa. He opens his speech with a powerful statement: "A white man, full of prejudice and hate, came to our country and committed a foul deed so foul that our whole nation now teeters on the brink of disaster".
Mandela is a great soul as great as Mahatma Ghandi whom he admired and followed his path.
The book is an easy read, conversational, but as I said those who wish to tackle the "Conversations with Myself" should read his autobiography first.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2012
This book is a collection of draft notes, letters, diary / calendar entries written by Nelson Mandela including the 27 year period when he was imprisoned. This is a captivating account of the mental anguish he suffered as his close friends, colleagues and family either died, were killed or were tortured, how he emotionally matured and was able to think in a detached fashion in spite of his considerable inner turmoil, how he forged effective alliances amongst diverse ideologies of the freedom fighters and evolved a form of collective leadership borne out of deep, passionate discussions and disagreements, how he strengthened his resolve to continue fighting for what he believed in yet was able to craft meaningful compromises with his adversaries and chip away at their authority using his moral persuasion skills, how he built deep relationships with global leaders and obtained their support for his cause while imprisoned. Truly, a moving collection.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Great collection of different writings from Mr. Mandela over the course of several decades. This book holds many wise and meaningful writings--- much like the man himself. Excellent book!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2012
I was apprehensive about this book at first, due to the format- its not a novel or a biography per say. The reader has to understand its a collection of notes, speeches, letters, transcribed conversations that collectively give insight to Nelson Mandela, the man, his life, his family & the struggles, pain & his achievements. I learned a lot from the book. Mandela is well educated, well read, and fluent in his thoughts & words- he articulates well. He inspires & give hope, and this comes through a lot in his writings. Since the book is a compilation, quite often each piece might seem disjointed. But once you get the hang of the format (first few pages), its quite a book, a keepsake, very educational. Ive highlighted so many sections as I read, inspiring words of wisdom, thought, hope. I enjoyed this book tremendously & the idea to share his own words through this collection, made it even more real. I also loved the appendix which document places, events, accronyms, even has maps so the reader is better able to fully understand..& join the dots.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Nelson Mandela's Conversations with Myself takes the reader through the meanders in the life of a man widely acclaimed as the world's longest-serving prisoner. The story of Mandela's twenty-seven-year incarceration on Robben Island, Pollsmoor and Victor Verster prisons has become the creation myth of the Rainbow Nation. In 454 pages, the author retraces his life from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of power in South Africa.Conversations with Myself tells the story of a living legend; it chronicles the life of a man who lived by his own ideals. The book does not immortalize the man, Mandela; rather it portrays him as an epic hero. Countless books have been written and will continue to be written about this memorable man but this one towers them all on account of the intimacies and intricacies it contains. Written in conversational style, the book is an easy read. It is devoid of verbal sophistry. A must read!
Dr. Peter Vakunta is creative writer, literary critic and professor of literature.
17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
If you have read little about Nelson Mandela this book is a fine place to start although his autobiography would be a better place to start in my opinion. If you have read only his autobiography it is a worthy read. But, if you have read extensively on Mandela there is very little here that is new. Where this book is valuable, however, is that getting much of what is available in this book is difficult and time consuming (I read this book after my dissertation on Mandela was finished to see if anything new was available).
Some of this book is not written by Mandela but rather insights of others who knew him. For instance, Richard Stengel (helped Mandela write his autobiography) offers tidbits from his time with Mandela. While these insights are interesting I am not sure they offer deep insights into Mandela. Mandela is not particularly introspective and Stengel at times seemed to worship Mandela. For instance Stengel wrote how empty he felt after leaving Mandela to go back to New York (not in this book if I remember correctly). In general this book does little to challenge Mandela's secular sainthood (something he detested).
If you are expecting deep personal insights into Mandela you will be disappointed. I am not sure those insights are available anywhere unless you can channel Walter Sisulu or Oliver Tambo. Mandela became incredibly disciplined and guarded while in prison. Except for Sisulu or Tambo (or perhaps his current wife) I am not sure he revealed anything but glimpses into his psychological self to anyone else and most seem to project attributes on him. For instance Desmond Tutu called him a man of forgiveness but Mandela did not use the word forgive or forgiveness once in his autobiography. Mandela used the term "reconciliation". Tutu was a man of forgiveness. Mandela sought reconciliation, recognizing that no one was able to claim they had not done evil actions.
If you have not read much about Mandela I would have no problem with suggestions this book is worthy of 5 stars. If you have read about Mandela extensively it is not worthy of 1 star except that it is very interesting this book is called Conversations with Myself. The title alone is very interesting considering there are only conversations with others and insights from others in the book.