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Widely considered to be the most important biography of Nelson Mandela, Antony Sampson’s remarkable book has been updated with an afterword by acclaimed South African journalist, John Battersby.
Long after his presidency of South Africa, Nelson Mandela remained an inspirational figure to millions – both in his homeland and far beyond. He has been, without doubt, one of the most important figures in global history. His death, on 5 December 2013 at the age of 95, resonated around the world.
Mandela’s opposition to apartheid and his 27 year incarceration at the hands of South Africa’s all-white regime are familiar to most. In this utterly compelling book, eminent biographer Anthony Sampson draws on a fifty year-long relationship to reveal the man who rocked a continent – and changed its future.
With unprecedented access to the former South African president – the letters he wrote in prison, his unpublished jail autobiography, extensive conversations, and interviews with hundreds of colleagues, friends, and family – Sampson depicts the realities of Mandela’s private and public life, and the tragic tension between them. Updated after Sampson’s death with a new afterword by distinguished South African journalist John Battersby, this is the ultimate biography of one of the twentieth century’s greatest statesmen.
‘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
About the author
In the late 1950s Anthony Sampson spent four years in Johannesburg editing the black magazine Drum, an experience which led to a lifelong fascination with South African politics. He was on the staff of the Observer in the 1960s and his bestselling books have been translated into over 15 languages. He died in 2004.
Perhaps no living historical figure, with the possible exception of Pope John Paul II, enjoys the worldwide honor and affection accorded Nelson Mandela. All the more remarkable, then, that Sampson, who first met Mandela in 1951, succeeds at the formidable task of writing a multifaceted portrait of Mandela as viewed through his interactions with the widest imaginable array of people, from heads of state to brutal, near-illiterate prison guards. "The prison years are often portrayed as a long hiatus in the midst of Mandela's political career," Sampson writes, "but I see them as the key to his development, transforming the headstrong activist into the reflective and self-disciplined world statesman." As Sampson sees it, this transformation was one in a series as Mandela evolved from favorite son of a minor chief to protectee of the tribal Regent, from an aristocrat accustomed to deference to a hard-working student in a missionary school meritocracy, from country boy to urban lawyer, from tribal-identified youth to committed multiracialist. Sampson makes much of Mandela's gift for befriending enemies, a gift that led to Mandela's role in South Africa's national reconciliation. Sampson notes, however, that the social and economic transformation Mandela saw as reconciliation's necessary corollary has yet to come to fruition. More than a comforting story of moral heroism, Sampson offers a gritty tale of a struggle unfinished. He manages to give readers a flawed, flesh-and-blood Mandela who is infinitely more interesting--and more admirable for being real--than the myth. 24 pages of photos; maps not seen by PW.