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Mandela : The Authorized Biography Hardcover – August 31, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st American ed edition (August 31, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375400192
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375400193
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,089,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

British journalist Anthony Sampson first met Nelson Mandela in 1951, when Sampson was editing a black magazine in Johannesburg, and his biography of the leader benefits greatly from his long familiarity with South Africa and his access to the 81-year-old statesman's unpublished letters and documents. These are particularly helpful in chronicling Mandela's political and spiritual odyssey during 27 years in prison, when the fiery anti-apartheid militant condemned to life imprisonment in 1964 evolved into a dignified, authoritative leader convinced that "reconciliation would be essential to survival." The roots of this stance lie deep in African history; Sampson's excellent chapters on Mandela's rural youth remind readers that he was the aristocratic scion of a royal family who early imbibed the tribal tradition of ubuntu (mutual responsibility and compassion) and the local king's emphasis on ruling by consensus. South Africa's relatively peaceful transition to multiracial democracy owes much to Mandela's ability to voice these concepts in contemporary terms. And Sampson's detailed explication of the ins and outs of revolutionary politics over five decades--though sometimes heavy going for the general reader--vividly reveals how his subject achieved the political and moral maturity that made his 1994 election as the nation's first black president both inevitable and exhilarating. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

Perhaps no living historical figure, with the possible exception of Pope John Paul II, enjoys the worldwide honor and affection accorded Nelson Mandela. All the more remarkable, then, that Sampson, who first met Mandela in 1951, succeeds at the formidable task of writing a multifaceted portrait of Mandela as viewed through his interactions with the widest imaginable array of people, from heads of state to brutal, near-illiterate prison guards. "The prison years are often portrayed as a long hiatus in the midst of Mandela's political career," Sampson writes, "but I see them as the key to his development, transforming the headstrong activist into the reflective and self-disciplined world statesman." As Sampson sees it, this transformation was one in a series as Mandela evolved from favorite son of a minor chief to protectee of the tribal Regent, from an aristocrat accustomed to deference to a hard-working student in a missionary school meritocracy, from country boy to urban lawyer, from tribal-identified youth to committed multiracialist. Sampson makes much of Mandela's gift for befriending enemies, a gift that led to Mandela's role in South Africa's national reconciliation. Sampson notes, however, that the social and economic transformation Mandela saw as reconciliation's necessary corollary has yet to come to fruition. More than a comforting story of moral heroism, Sampson offers a gritty tale of a struggle unfinished. He manages to give readers a flawed, flesh-and-blood Mandela who is infinitely more interestingAand more admirable for being realAthan the myth. 24 pages of photos; maps not seen by PW. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
If you believe there are no modern heroes - that fortitude and unselfish judgement in the face of adversity are out-of-date virtues, you need to read this book. That Sampson shows the whole man so well (with admittedly a few frailities) adds depth to the tremendous courage, excellent judgement, and magnanimity Mandela demonstrated his entire life, even when the cause of the ANC he led seemed hopeless. Along the way the book gives an excellent view of South African history during Mandela's adulthood. If you are not very familiar with Mandela or South Africa you might do better to start with Mandela's own book, "Long Walk to Freedom" which doesn't cover quite so much ground and is more on a human scale. Both books are inspiring.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
If you need to know Nelson Mandela, this is the book to read. This book's weaknesses are evident: It is written from a British viewpoint, and basically takes for granted a knowledge of South African history and geography most Americans do not possess (though they should). It also soft pedals the problems in Mandela's relationship with Winnie, though that is understandable. I have a feeling that not too many people could understand it. But it does a great job of making us see how the man was shaped and became what he is, and how he stands as a fearless, remarkable leader.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By DR. BERNARD LEEMAN on June 18, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Sampson's book diminishes the achievement of Mandela by his failure to recognise that the years 1952-64 were not so much a struggle against the Pretoria regime but one for the leadership of the increasingly politicised African population. The postwar townships had thrown up a volatile society that found Mandela, Tambo, Lutuli and Sisulu too tied to the notion that status and education not policies and grass roots activism were enough to guarantee leadership. It is foolish to dismiss the Maoist attitudes of the Africanist Movement and their split into the PAC as motivated by dislike of communists. The ANC and their SACP allies were too elitist and undemocratic for the time. Mandela recognised this almost too late - Tambo changed the constitution in 1957 to stop the township hooligans" from taking over the party rather than deal with them. When the PAC campaign forced both ANC and PAC underground it was PAC activism that forced Mandela into violence and he again displayed his remoteness from the masses by having to rely on urban middle class white professionals to run his military campaign - Bernstein, Goldberg, Wolpe et al. By the time of Rivonia Mandela had been upstaged completely by the PAC and again in 1976 by Biko's movement. In 1980 the PAC army was massacred in its Tanzanian camp for opposing dialogue and detente, leaving an open field to the ANC (the present PAC has no connection with the real party). What Sampson fails to address is how Mandela, almost politically bankrupt in 1964, managed to emerge as a national leader. Sampson does not recognise that support for Mandela after 1964 came because even his rivals were appalled by such a savage sentence for what were quite innocuous activities.Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By P. Warren on October 30, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Have you ever felt frustrated as a tourist that you had trouble seeing beneath the surface of the sights around you? When visiting South Africa in 2011 for the first time, I ran into this problem. I had read a fair number of South African books before the trip, but the sights around me when I got there raised more and more questions. When I found Anthony Sampson's biography of Mandela, it was like water for intense thirst. Six hundred pages later, I wanted only more. Sampson's work brings together psychology, history, and politics in a rich and authoritative web. He offers understanding that doesn't pretend to be complete, insight without presumption, complexity without detachment.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Savo Heleta on November 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
Anthony Sampson's "Mandela" is one of the best biographies ever written! This book, together with Mandela's "Long Walk to Freedom," should be read by every person alive.

Mandela's life and actions give us hope that the humankind can do better. He shows the path of peace and hope instead of hatred and revenge.
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