Over the years there has been a steady stream of books on the life and times of the South African prisoner and politician Nelson Mandela. In this heavy book Mandela is conversing with himself. But do not forget that he is talking also with other people. During his lifetime he kept notes, not always on a daily basis, he started writing his biography during his days in prison. He wrote letters to his wife Winnie and his later wife Grace. He wrote letters to his children and to many friends and opponents. he scribbled when in meetings. In this book a selection has been made to give a view of Mandela’s life and thoughts. It is a selection and then I wonder ‘what has been left out’? Mandela is in some sections of his conversations very adamant that he does not want to include anything about the breakup with Winnie Mandela and with the breakup with his first wife. What else has been excluded in the collection of these conversations. He shows his public face, even from the days in prison.
In this note book we find sections of his discussions with his fellow-prisoner Ahmed Kathrada on his biography ‘Long walk to freedom’. They talk about questions posed by the publisher, they talk about facts and fiction, in this way we get a behind the scenes from two men talking about the past and how to present it to the present.
Similar discussions he had with Richard Stengel who was a writer who collaborated with Mandela on the long walk. Also these discussions have been taped and selections now have been made public. A few years after Mandela’s release from prison Stengel made a documentary on Mandela.
Next to this we wend letters and part of letters, some even with a print of the original handwriting. Notes from his diaries and scraps of other notes. All of these together give an impression of this man who has been the lips of so many people world wide. One impression I gained was that Mandela looked for bridges to cross to other people, to reach out to make contact to talk about the issues at hand. In one way he wanted to consult others and make decisions in unity, but he also had the courage to follow on his own his own track, without consulting others. For he had his eyes set on the liberation of his people.
There is some additional information: * a time line of the life of Mandela * a map of South Africa in 1996 * a map of Africa in 1962 to show the secret journey Mandela made to prepare himself for the leadership of the armed wing of the resistance * a list of abbreviations * an extensive list of people, places and events with additional information * a bibliography * a few websites * thanks * register * foreword by Barack Obama, that other president.
This book is very much worth the effort of reading it. It gives more background to the life and times of Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela – Conversations with myself – 2010