From Publishers Weekly
In this groundbreaking biography of a central figure in the fight to end South African apartheid, O'Malley draws on every aspect of Maharaj's life and the society in which he lived in order to understand South Africa's changing racial and political context over the past 100 years. Based on extensive interviews with Maharaj, this is an often harrowing read, recounting his torture as a political prisoner and the many difficulties and setbacks suffered by underground activists within and outside of South Africa. Maharaj—a first-person narrator in most of the book—comes across as an imperfect and deeply human hero, animated by his stubborn streak to devote his entire life to the cause. Few people have had a more eventful life, and the book has some of the flavor of spy vs. spy: "My blazer was stolen from the bedroom of our hideout. In the blazer, which was part of my disguise, was three thousand dollars. The blazer had my pocket diary, in the inside cover of which I had written key contact numbers." A lengthy foreword by Nelson Mandela touches on his relationship with Maharaj, his decision to make him minister of transport in the first free South African government, and the time they shared imprisoned on Robben Island. (Apr.)
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Nelson Mandela's expansive foreword to this work expresses his regard for its subject, Satyandranath Ragunanan Maharaj. Mandela was imprisoned with him by South Africa's apartheid government and appointed Maharaj as minister in the first postapartheid government in 1994. Aware of his importance, O'Malley, a professor of politics, persuaded the wary Maharaj, born in 1935 and a veteran of clandestine affairs (printing and bomb making, to be specific) in the South African Communist Party, to tell his life story. O'Malley prefaces each segment of Maharaj's arc with corresponding political developments in the enforcement of apartheid and in Mandela's resistance organization, the African National Congress. Clearly important for scholars, O'Malley's effort has a directness that can remind general readers of the nature of apartheid. Maharaj relays myriad examples of living in the web of racial regulations, and the price in jail time, torture, and family stress that he paid for his fight against them. Pairing Maharaj's personal experiences with political history, O'Malley brings needed attention to a significant associate of Mandela. Gilbert Taylor
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