Magazine article New Internationalist

Long Walk to Freedom

Magazine article New Internationalist

Long Walk to Freedom

Article excerpt

The speed of events means that most of South Africa's great writers, poets and commentators have not yet had time to produce considered work on the new situation. There is, however, one new book that's already a best-seller and really is worth reading. It is, of course, Nelson Mandela's autobiography Long Walk to Freedom (Little, Brown and Company, London 1994).

The book is not without its snags. It is long, weighs a lot and is quite expensive-although Mandela has promised a paperback version soon. Sometimes you can detect the presence of a ghost-writer. Its elevated, patrician viewpoint occasionally turns monotonous. Because Mandela is such a consummate politician-he has an extraordinary ability to personify his political project-you can also find yourself wondering whether you aren't being served a careful interpretation rather than a straight-forward account of his life.

But it is not dishonest. He tells you, for example, that although as a young man he worked in the gold mines of Johannesburg, his connections among the African leadership meant that his work was largely clerical and privileged. He acknowledges continuity with, and indebtedness to, his fore-runners in the long struggle.

You can read the book as a wonderful story with an unlikely, happy ending that you already know. Or you can use it to gain some insight into the history and dignity of black South Africa. Above all, you can read it for the transparent wisdom of a great man.


Many voluntary organizations in South Africa are in crisis, and some even face extinction, because funds are drying up or being redirected towards the Reconstruction and Development Programme. …

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