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Mandela: A Critical Life Hardcover – October 2, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (October 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192805681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192805683
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.2 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #650,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nelson Mandela is perhaps the world's most revered living political figure for his role in transforming South Africa into a true democracy. In this illuminating bio, University of Limerick professor Lodge (Politics in South Africa) shows how Mandela's struggle for equality brought him to prominence. Though Mandela is hardly lacking biographers, Lodge makes an important contribution with his argument that Mandela's appeal rests on his ability to personify his political beliefs. Mandela's politics, which emphasize a mix of authority, empathy and respect for all people, are mirrored by his actions and behavior toward everyone he's come in contact with, thereby allowing his personal grace and dignity to be a political gesture. According to Lodge, Mandela's magnanimity serves as a model for a new kind of citizenship, one that embraces difference and the messiness of democracy without sacrificing the gentlemanly restraint Mandela associated with English political institutions. Lodge is careful to give Mandela an assertive role in this process, showing how he cultivated his own life story and his status as a martyr for justice in order to hasten the coming of democracy to his country. Vivid descriptions of the daily horrors of apartheid and the men and women around Mandela, such as his ex-wife Winnie and the troubled F.W. de Klerk, reveal the complicated world that Mandela ultimately and triumphantly managed to change. 17 b&w photos not seen by PW. (Sept. 30)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

For those who want much more than the view of Mandela as a global public hero, this biography combines a chronological account of his life with dense critical analysis of his political and personal roles. Lodge is a well-known scholar of South African history, and he draws on a wealth of testimonies, letters, and interviews from a wide range of sources, as well as the acclaimed authorized biographies, including Antony Sampson's Mandela (1999). Of course Lodge also draws extensively on Mandela's best-selling memoir, Long Walk to Freedom (1994), even while pointing out that "autobiography is not always good history." Then there are the recent news events, including Mandela's commitment to combating the AIDS pandemic and how that effort became tragically personal when his son died of the illness. One question raised is how much the messianic image was carefully crafted. The analysis in no way belittles Mandela; rather, it humanizes the man who, after 27 years in prison, led his country in a nonviolent transition to democracy. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Didn't enjoy the author's writing style.
lindamay
This book reads more like a history book -- no story, just fact after fact.
LIN
I believe he was a hero to Affica, a great man.
Beverly Hughes

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Reza Shafii on December 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I had read Nelson Mandela's autobiography "Long Walk to Freedom" some time ago. I was hoping to find an objective and complimentary third party analysis of his extraordinary story. I am happy to say that Tom Lodge's book provided me exactly with what I was looking for. Lodge has authored a persuasive and unbiased examination of the public and private life of one of 20th century's greatest men.

The book provides a fascinating view on the crafting of the Mandela icon by himself and those around him. It is also interesting to understand the details that Mandela has consciously chosen not to include in his autobiography, such as, for example, some of the more humiliating treatments inflicted on him by South African prison guards.

Considering the book's relatively short length, Lodge's assessment of the important events underlying Mandela's life is, in many cases, remarkably extensive, often considering the view of multiple sources from varying stand points. That being said, Mandela's political development, especially in the period of time prior to his long term imprisonment, is multifaceted and involves a large number of people and organizations. As a result, readers for whom this is an introduction to Mandela's story might be better off starting with his autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom", and reading Lodge's work as an excellent second book on this subject.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By not me VINE VOICE on August 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
In just a little over 200 pages, "Mandela: A Critical Life" tells the story of how Nelson Mandela rose to the top of the African National Congress and emerged as an icon in South African politics. The author taught political science at Wits University, has good contacts in the ANC, and is an expert on black politics in South Africa. His book is a masterpiece of insight and compression. That said, it is not for beginners looking for straightforward biography. The text follows Mandela's life and career chronologically, but the analysis/biography ratio is high, and readers without background knowledge of 20th century South African history would be quite lost.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Rodrigo Silveira on March 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
Mandela, A critical life is a good biography of the man. It tells us the story of his life with enough detail to enable us to have an intelligent conversation about the subject with reasonably well informed people. I appreciated the author's ability to cover vast amounts of material without having to use huge amounts of words. It has been a few weeks since I finished the book and the main points are still with me, a good sign that the relevant material was covered well.

What is missing from the narrative are deeper dives in certain portions of Mandela's persona looking for more insights into the man; it is easily understood that much of Mandela was molded by his patrician upbringing and his flair for the British way of life. Is this all? I don't think so. There must be deeper forces that drove Mandela to choose armed rebellion; once the choice for armed rebellion was made the author fails to make a case as to why Mandela chose to risk a life in prison instead that of a freedom fighter? After all, Castro has finished demonstrating the possibilities. We all know there were significantly differences between Cuba and South Africa and that a man of Mandela's caliber and experience would have understood it? On the other hand, was Mandela's choice made due his experience, statesmanship, a lack of courage, or some other reason?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Beverly Hughes on January 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book gives an in depth account of the actions of Mr. Mandela's political associations with groups and people in power during his entire life. Although I am not familiar with most of the organizations, because I have not studied the history I am fascinated. Mandela's life was complex, and his status as a member of a "royal" family enabled him access to jobs and positions that could not otherwise be obtained. He was not always the est qualified for his positions in political groups, but he was well respected and seen as a man of honor. His personal contact with the people which gave him more insight. His imposing appearance and reputation opened doors to make a difference. I would have rated it with 5 stars if the book was better organized in time sequences. It is a very good book especially if one knows more about African political history. I believe he was a hero to Affica, a great man.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dylan R. Vane on March 7, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
More of a meta-review of Mandela's various biographies than a biography to itself, this book reads more like a well-written dissertation than a stand-alone book.

For those who are already very familiar with Mandela's life, this book adds nuance and perspective to the existing narratives. For those who are looking for a first biography to read about him, this one is probably not the place to start.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sara Dwyer on March 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Mandela's convictions and commitment can not be presented to the world too many times. We still need to learn from the credibility of a 'critical life' lived well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By jodakid333 on March 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Still reading but I love what I've read so far, very memorable. Mandela is a great man he did what he was meant to do, change a nation and free his people.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jerry S. Johnson on January 20, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
More of a scholarly treatment of his life than an easy-read feel-good book. Very detailed treatment of his early tribal life and education.
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