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Mandela : The Authorized Biography

Sampson, Anthony

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ISBN 10: 0375400192 / ISBN 13: 9780375400193
Published by Knopf
Condition: Fine Hardcover
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0375400192 Knopf hardcover w/dust jacket, 1999, 1st U.S. edition, unused, No marks/tears or defects.as New/as New.New mylar cover, bubble-wrapped and mailed in a Box w/delivery confirmation. Bookseller Inventory # 49814

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Mandela : The Authorized Biography

Publisher: Knopf

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Fine

About this title

Synopsis:

The life of Nelson Mandela is one of the most extraordinary epics of the twentieth century. An almost-forgotten prisoner on Robben Island twenty years ago, apparently doomed to a helpless existence as a victim of apartheid, he not only survived but almost single-handedly saved South Africa from potential chaos, to become one of the most widely admired leaders in the world. Mandela's myth is dazzling; in this magnificent biography Anthony Sampson penetrates it to show us the man himself.

Sampson has known Mandela since 1951. He was given Mandela's complete cooperation, including access to twenty-seven years' worth of unpublished correspondence from prison and many other private documents--even the original draft of Mandela's prison autobiography, long thought to be lost. He interviewed virtually every significant living figure associated with Mandela, from childhood schoolmates to Mandela's ex-wife, Winnie, to former president F. W. de Klerk. Mandela himself checked and annotated the manuscript, but Sampson was left free to make his own judgments about the man, which he has done with refreshing candor. The result is wonderfully revealing and objective.

Mandela is filled with new insights and information. We see how prison, which he and his fellow inmates turned into a kind of unofficial university, gradually transformed Mandela from a headstrong activist into a reflective and consummately skilled statesman. We learn how British and American diplomats cold-shouldered him when support was desperately needed, and about the political infighting, sometimes vicious, that went on between anti-apartheid factions. Particularly fascinating is Sampson's narrative of the incredible negotiations leading to Mandela's release from prison and the eventual collapse of the white regime, when his colleagues feared that he was selling out to the government.

At every turn, this book sheds fresh light on the moral dilemmas that Mandela was forced to face again and again in his personal and public lives. In the struggle for freedom for South African blacks, he paid a tragic price, becoming alienated from his wife and remote from his children. Yet he famously retained his humanity, and while Sampson does not conceal Mandela's failings--his stubbornness, his fixed loyalties, his princely manners and detachment--the man who emerges is authentically heroic.

Broadly based, painstakingly researched, elegantly written, Mandela is a fitting complement to Mandela's celebrated autobiography. It will stand as an exemplar of the biographer's art at its most masterly and, even more, as a moving testament to the power of the human spirit in adversity.

Review:

British journalist Anthony Sampson first met Nelson Mandela in 1951, when Sampson was editing a black magazine in Johannesburg, and his biography of the leader benefits greatly from his long familiarity with South Africa and his access to the 81-year-old statesman's unpublished letters and documents. These are particularly helpful in chronicling Mandela's political and spiritual odyssey during 27 years in prison, when the fiery anti-apartheid militant condemned to life imprisonment in 1964 evolved into a dignified, authoritative leader convinced that "reconciliation would be essential to survival." The roots of this stance lie deep in African history; Sampson's excellent chapters on Mandela's rural youth remind readers that he was the aristocratic scion of a royal family who early imbibed the tribal tradition of ubuntu (mutual responsibility and compassion) and the local king's emphasis on ruling by consensus. South Africa's relatively peaceful transition to multiracial democracy owes much to Mandela's ability to voice these concepts in contemporary terms. And Sampson's detailed explication of the ins and outs of revolutionary politics over five decades--though sometimes heavy going for the general reader--vividly reveals how his subject achieved the political and moral maturity that made his 1994 election as the nation's first black president both inevitable and exhilarating. --Wendy Smith

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