The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
“The Autobiography succeeds because the vicissitudes Mandela has gone through, in the course of his life, are so dramatic that the reader cannot help responding to them as if to a fairy tale or moral fable of some kind. No hero of legend ever went through such protracted trials to arrive at such an improbable victory” – Dan Jacobson, Daily Telegraph.
The book is the autobiography of Rolihlahla ‘Nelson’ Mandela, more endearingly known by his tribal name – Madiba.
This book is not a demanding read, providing are you braced to read some 400,000 words, But the story flows effortlessly from Madiba’s childhood to his election as state president; a period of 70 plus years.
The book lists between being a journal of political events to times of ‘edge of the chair’ gripping moments; times of appalling hardship and unimaginable cruelty, to times when the reader’s emotions will produce tears of compassion.
The story tells of a young boy, raised in what could be said to be a privileged background, given the general hardships he describes regarding his kind as a whole. Being brought up in the peaceful environment of a country village, where generally speaking, people were happy, even if not comfortable, by the comparible ease of white people of the same era.
They were trouble-free boyhood days that were filled with fun and freedom from care.
The story describes Madiba’s advantaged education over his class that brought him through university and ultimate qualification as an attorney.
The book describes Madiba as man with a dream who ultimately came to that place in his life of realizing, that no dream is fulfilled without commitment and consequent action.
On crossing the Rubicon from realization to action his life was irreversibly changed and his fate sealed.
We read of the cost of this change, devastating the lives of not only himself, but his wife and children. Yet, by contrast, the story relates the bolstering effect of family, friends and compatriots that stood by him.
The accounts of the Rivonia Trial and its ultimate outcome, life imprisonment, are only second in horror to the life of a maximum security prisoner in South Africa of that time.
The reader finds themselves in a constant place of hoping for a miracle of early release, or at least, more humane treatment during his incarceration.
The story reaches a real crescendo in the final stages of Madiba’s imprisonment; the paradox of improvement in the conditions of his life in prison and the raging storm of bloodletting throughout the country, clashing of political forces in what really amounted to an undeclared civil war.
As a backdrop to this ugly and tragic scene, Madiba tells of the support from countries around the globe and more especially of sanctions applied by America and Europe.
The final act on the stage is the negotiations between Madiba and President De Klerk that lead to his release from prison.
He tells of the struggle he now had, of not only trying to uphold teetering negotiations for settlement, but the distrust of his own party, who were afraid he may be selling them out for the reward of his freedom.
All the pain of this tension on his release is climaxed by the first election involving all the people of South Africa and the bloodless transition that took place from that point.
I classify this book as a good read. It is a story that should be read by people of all walks of life, old and young alike and from that point that they should make up their own minds regarding the tale of Madiba, the first black President of South Africa.
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