Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela 1918-2013

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela 1918-2013

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela 1918-2013

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela 1918-2013


December 2014 marked a year since the passing of Nelson Mandela—a man who was as much myth as flesh and blood. Transition pays tribute to Mandela’s worldly attainments and to his otherworldly sainthood. Featuring remembrances from Wole Soyinka, Xolela Mangcu, Pierre de Vos, and Adam Habib, this issue assembles Mandela’s staunchest allies—for whom he approached saintliness—as well as his most entrenched critics.Other contributors consider the iconicity of Mandela—including his representations in films; the importance of boxing to his political career; his time studying with the revolutionary army in Algeria; his stance on children’s rights; and even his ill-fated trip to Miami. Whoever you think Mandela was—or wasn’t—this issue is the new required reading.


Alejandro de la Fuente

I agree, we are not on Martin, the teenager from Miami Gardens, Florida. Not after Eric Garner, the cigarettes guy, of Staten Island, New York. There are many more.

We desperately need that which Mandela was uniquely capable of giving: hope. Many writers here agree—even when they agree on little else—that Mandela’s most important legacy was his ability to reach out across boundaries of race, culture, and class, to fabricate unusual moments of shared humanity, even in the most unlikely circumstances. Such humanity was not sustained in perfection (although it is tempting to flatten him into something devoid of life and sweat), but in the conviction that it is only through the lives, needs, and dreams of others that a person can fully be. As a dear friend of his once put it, “his was a way of living for the freedom of others.”

That dear friend needs no introduction. Not here, not in Transition, a magazine that published her work as early as 1965. As we prepared this special issue to honor Mandela, as we paused to reflect on his accomplishments and legacies, we learned of the death of Nadine Gordimer. the winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature, Gordimer’s writing captured the anxieties, conflicts, and horrors of South African society under apartheid. Even if it wasn’t apartheid that made her a writer, as she once said, it is difficult to imagine her writings without apartheid. Several of her books were banned by the South African regime, which knew of her contacts with Mandela, whom she had met in 1964 during the Rivonia Trial. That’s the trial that sentenced him to life imprisonment, the trial that condemned him to immortality. “To have lived one’s life at the same time, and in the same natal country, as Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a guidance and a privilege we South Africans shared. I also knew the privilege of becoming one of his friends,” Gordimer wrote after Mandela’s death. “Mandela: not a figure carved in stone but a tall man, of flesh and blood, whose suffering had made . . .

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