Books by Anthony Sampson

MANDELA by Anthony Sampson
Released: Sept. 16, 1999

A comprehensive treatment of the life of the South African political prisoner, martyr, and president by journalist Sampson (Company Man: The Rise and Fall of Corporate Life, 1995, etc.), a long-time acquaintance and admirer. Adhering to a strict chronology, this biography follows Mandela from his boyhood in remote villages (where his father was a hereditary chief with four wives) to his miraculous transformation into an "overwhelming global icon." Mandela benefits from Sampson's thorough research and from his intimate knowledge of South Africa and of the myriad personalities who formed the cast for one of history's most compelling dramas of personal sacrifice and redemption. Sampson reveals that Mandela at 16 endured a painful circumcision in a tribal rite of passage; he portrayed John Wilkes Booth in a college play; he was a skilled boxer; for 18 of his 27 years in prison, he lived in an eight-food-by-seven-foot cell and slept on a straw mat; and he once acknowledged that his second wife, Winnie (there have been two other spouses), kindled "a thousand fires in me." Sampson enjoyed the full cooperation of Mandela, who not only granted access to his personal letters and other papers but also read and corrected drafts of Mandela. Although Sampson assures readers that he was "free to make . . . [his] own judgments and criticisms," there are in this lengthy work very few places where Mandela emerges as anything other than a secular saint. Sampson concedes only that Mandela's oratory is "far from thrilling" and that his devotion to the destruction of apartheid forced him to neglect his family. Winnie Mandela, by contrast, comes off poorly. She earns high marks for her pulchritude and panache, low marks for candor, probity, and, ultimately, sanity. A richly detailed political history, a generous portrayal of a consummate politician, and a true profile in courage—a courage both unimaginably immense and stunningly rare. (32 pages b&w photos, 2 maps, not seen) (First printing of 75,000;Book-of-the- Month Club/History Book Club alternate selection) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

Sampson (The Midas Touch, 1990, etc.) draws on his experience as a student of the international business scene, and on a wealth of unconventional sources, to trace the evolution/revolution of life in great corporations, from the British East India Company through Microsoft. In detailing the frequently convulsive transition of family firms and state-franchised concerns into modern corporations, the author is as apt to refer to the arts, from Buddenbrooks to Working Girl, as to cite the private-sector record. By the middle of the 20th century, Sampson observes, organization men and their female secretariats appeared to have become socioeconomic fixtures not only in America but also throughout Europe and Japan. As he makes clear, however, those who banked on stability were in for a series of shocks. Raiders imposed harsh commercial discipline on US and UK corpocracies not performing up to their perceived potential; Asian rivals were helping themselves to once unassailable domestic markets; computers began to displace hosts of middle managers; and career women mounted a determined effort to crack the glass ceiling that keeps them from upper-echelon posts. As companies everywhere moved to make themselves more cost-competitive, job security evaporated at such onetime havens as GE, GM, Imperial Chemical, IBM, and even Japan's Toyota. Concurrently, advances in telecommunications allowed increasing numbers of employees to work from their cars or homes (in some sense, a return to yesteryear's cottage industries). While the company's surviving men and women were obliged to become more productive, Sampson points out, their executive masters have been ever more handsomely rewarded, even when they fail. Conceding the story is far from over, he predicts accountability will be a central issue in future debates on capitalism's contribution to the common weal. A quickstep but generally rewarding tour of the West's assembly lines, boardrooms, offices, and service centers that suggests, among other things, that history indeed repeats itself. Read full book review >