Anti-apartheid political prisoner Kathrada examines his actions and the aftermath that resulted in 30 years of imprisonment.
The author offers a unique behind-the-scenes view of South Africa's apartheid struggles. After being misidentified as an antigovernment militant, Kathrada was imprisoned alongside the country's future leaders, including future president Nelson Mandela. In Mandela's introduction, he notes his and Kathrada's interconnected stories, how “the telling of one without the voice of the other being heard somewhere would have led to an incomplete narrative.” While Mandela's political success has allowed his name to become far more recognizable throughout the world, Kathrada's literary contribution reveals a much-needed layer of history of both men's experiences. The author gives the reader a glimpse behind the prison door, but also offers a historical perspective of the fierceness of the South African race problem. In one memorable scene, Kathrada described placing an inebriated political enemy in a compromising situation involving a prostitute. However, once the pictures were snapped and the evidence gathered, he brought them to Mandela who, rather than encouraging their publication, helped Kathrada weigh the moral cost of destroying a man's career simply for disagreeing with his politics. After much reflection, Kathrada destroyed the incriminating photos, sparing the man his much-deserved shame while revealing an instance of rare civility when none was ever offered to him.
An intimate, welcome first-person account of a portion of South African history that remains foggy to many American readers.