Mandela : The Authorised Biography

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9780002558297: Mandela : The Authorised Biography

‘A magisterial, detailed and invaluable account of one of this century’s greatest figures … it is hard to believe that a better biography will ever be written.’ Justin Cartwright, Sunday Telegraph

Nelson Mandela is perhaps the most admired statesman in the world today, his story of opposition to apartheid and subsequent jailing at the hands of the South African all-white regime made familiar through the international success of his 1994 autobiography LONG WALK TO FREEDOM.

Now the eminent writer Anthony Sampson (who has known Mandela since the 1950s) has been given complete access to all his personal papers, to Mandela himself, his friends and political associates, to write the full extraordinary story of Mandela’s life. In addition to covering his years before, during and after his incarceration, he assesses Mandela’s impact as President on South Africa and the world. He also reveals many features of the apartheid system that have hitherto been hidden, and describes the changing attitudes of big business to the ANC and to Mandela himself. The result is a compelling and authoritative biography of one of the greatest men of the 20th century.

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Review:

In 1975, imprisoned for life on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela covertly wrote his autobiography. After painstaking months the text was smuggled out--and was promptly quashed by the African National Congress. In his later Long Walk to Freedom Mandela politely expresses "surprise" at this. Sampson reveals that Joe Slovo suppressed the book for not giving enough prominence to Communists. This revelation is remarkable--the ANC could have made much mileage from the book at a time of low fortune--yet Sampson does not follow up. There is too often a sense of eggshells lightly walked upon.

Mandela improves as the prisoner's release approaches. Sampson sharply exposes the machinations of those undermining the ANC's struggle. The CIA knew of the Third Force years before the ANC, yet said nothing. Right-wing governments attacked "Mandela the Communist", preferring to promote Inkhata's Buthelezi, at that time secretly and violently colluding with de Klerk's apartheid regime. Against the small-minded figures of Reagan, Thatcher and Kohl it is Mandela who emerges here a giant. South Africa won her freedom through Mandela: his strength of character and willingness to forgive helped push a country into an alternative future, avoiding the racial civil war almost all predicted. Yet he and his kin paid an awful price. Sampson draws a painful, clear picture of a disintegrating family: dislocation from children; the terrible effects of the war on Winnie, and her increasingly erratic, later murderous behaviour; Mandela's own aching loneliness. It is in capturing Madiba, the ultimate public figure, at his most intense and private, that Sampson's Mandela succeeds best. --Chris Woods

Review:

‘A magisterial, detailed and invaluable account of one of this century’s greatest figures … it is hard to believe that a better biography will ever be written.’ Justin Cartwright, Sunday Telegraph

‘Warmly to be welcomed, not least because it is more substantial and revealing than Mandela’s bestselling autobiography…a great leap forward in our understanding of a man who is both enigmatic and private…Anthony Sampson has carried out his difficult commission with skill and sensitivity’ Independent

‘This will be the last word on Mandela for years to come…it will be hard to improve upon this crowning conclusion to Sampson’s long career as a loving and expert chronicler of South Africa’ Evening Standard

‘Measured, detailed without a moment of tedium, incisive in its perceptions and at times, profoundly moving’ Observer

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