NELSON MANDELA by Martin Meredith


A Biography
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 A new, comprehensive biography of South Africa's leader achieves that rare distinction of making both the man and his times come vibrantly alive in a work that is notably incisive and perceptive. The author, British academic and journalist Meredith, who has written widely on South Africa, details Mandela's remarkable life with admirable fairness and an appreciation of South Africa's complex history. He is also as quick to note Mandela's missteps (his condoning of Libya's policies and his long toleration of Winnie Mandela's association with criminals) as to record those extraordinary acts that changed history: his decision to work with former president de Klerk and his emphasis on peaceful reconciliation. Meredith not only records the facts of Mandela's life up to the present, but shows how they shaped him. Luck played its usual role, but ultimately it was the discipline first learned as a young boy observing the rules of the tribal court where his chieftain uncle dispensed justice that enabled him to survive prison and emerge unembittered. And it was his passionate hatred of racism--``I hate the practice of racial discrimination, and in my hatred I am sustained by the fact that the overwhelming majority of mankind hate it equally''--that led him to advocate a nonracial society rather than a purely African one. Meredith punctiliously includes the relevant historical background as he notes the familiar milestones: Mandela joining the ANC, the trials, the Robben Island years, the release, the subsequent elections. Meredith suggests that the 1960 Treason Trial marked Mandela's appearance as a future leader. The years since his release have not been untroubled, but for Meredith, Mandela's ``legacy is a country which has experienced greater harmony than at any previous time in its history.'' Not only a moving record of a man whose courage and conviction was so splendidly vindicated by events, but an exemplary work of biography: instructive, illuminating, as well as felicitously written. (b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-18132-9
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1997


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