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)
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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 RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved