Foreword by President Barack Obama
Nelson Mandela is widely considered to be one of the most inspiring and iconic figures of our age. Now, after a lifetime of taking pen to paper to record thoughts and events, hardships and victories, he has bestowed his entire extant personal papers, which offer an unprecedented insight into his remarkable life.
A singular international publishing event, Conversations with Myself draws on Mandela’s personal archive of never-before-seen materials to offer unique access to the private world of an incomparable world leader. Journals kept on the run during the anti-apartheid struggle of the early 1960s; diaries and draft letters written in Robben Island and other South African prisons during his twenty-seven years of incarceration; notebooks from the postapartheid transition; private recorded conversations; speeches and correspondence written during his presidency—a historic collection of documents archived at the Nelson Mandela Foundation is brought together into a sweeping narrative of great immediacy and stunning power. An intimate journey from Mandela’s first stirrings of political consciousness to his galvanizing role on the world stage, Conversations with Myself illuminates a heroic life forged on the front lines of the struggle for freedom and justice.
While other books have recounted Mandela’s life from the vantage of the present, Conversations with Myself allows, for the first time, unhindered insight into the human side of the icon.
Nelson Mandela: Conversations with Myself
Graham Boynton wonders whether we will ever know the truth about Nelson Mandela
By Graham Boynton
It would be easy to dismiss this book on the world’s greatest living statesman as exploitation. Nelson Mandela is nearing the end of his life and one gets the feeling that any book published within some proximity of his drawing his last breath will sell by the lorry load.
So, I have to confess that my first thought was: “Here we go again.” We have, after all, had any number of authorised, semi-authorised and completely unauthorised biographies of the man in recent years – on top of his own Long Walk to Freedom and Mandela: the Authorised Portrait, a coffee-table book that serves as a good photojournalistic record. There are also Mandela cartoon books, Mandela children’s books and the sayings of Mandela.
Despite my misgivings, and the unnecessary foreword by Barack Obama, I found myself drawn into this well-organised and annotated compilation of personal files, correspondence, prison notes, interview transcripts and extracts from the unpublished sequel to his 1994 autobiography.
Whereas all the previous works on the subject seemed controlled, contained and distant – and that applies equally to Long Walk to Freedom, which was written with Time magazine editor Richard Stengel, and thus has rather strange traces of Harvard-speak throughout – this collection reveals the man for what he is: extraordinarily self-disciplined and with a capacity to forgive his persecutors. In other words, the very qualities that enabled him to lead his country out of the apartheid era.
Most compelling about this collection is that it jumps from the mundane (blood pressure readings taken at 7am and again at 2.30pm; trouser size noted as 34R; his disappointment at the ending of the film Amadeus), through to the historic (his arrest by a plain clothes policeman who he describes as being “very, very, very correct and courteous”) with barely a breath taken. As Mandela himself puts it: “In real life we deal, not with gods, but with ordinary people: men and women who are full of contradictions.”
What comes across is that Mandela is an African leader from another age, at once regal, conservative and chivalrous and at the same time emotionally reticent, seemingly unable to express spontaneous warmth about those closest to him. When his friend Ahmed Kathrada raises the subject of how the young Winnie reacted to his marriage proposal, he says: “I am simply not answering that question.”
I have one caveat. Despite the volume of Mandela material now in the public domain, I have a feeling he will go to his grave carrying secrets. For example, how much did he know about his wife Winnie’s reign of terror in Soweto in the late Eighties that brought great shame to the name Mandela? I have it on good authority that he was apprised of the details throughout those terrible days, and yet there is barely a passing mention here or in any of the other authorised books.
Such omissions mean we shall probably never know the whole truth about Nelson Mandela.
6 x 9 inches
ISBN : 978-0-230-74901-6
EAN : 9780230749016