A vividly reported, brilliantly analyzed account of apartheid's demise. From their country's earliest days to the apartheid era, white South Africans have shown a perverse genius for making bad historical choices. But from the 1980s on, when the stakes were at their very highest, everything suddenly changed, and the country began to act with a creative and inclusive sense of destiny. Perhaps not since the American Revolution has such a remarkable transformation been accomplished by so many remarkable individuals. As the Johannesburg bureau chief for the Financial Times, Waldmeir was at the very center of the action. As a purely journalistic account of what happened, of why apartheid—which seemed so entrenched, so culturally immovable—crumbled away, this book is exceptional. She has talked to all the players, from F. W. de Klerk to Nelson Mandela, right down to the lowliest cabinet officials, and she has personally covered all the big stories. Waldmeir has a pitch-perfect understanding of the forces working to end apartheid, and this helps take her account far beyond mere journalism. She believes that apartheid ultimately fell not because of sanctions or ANC actions, but because it forced the Afrikaner leadership into an inescapable moral contradiction. They thought apartheid's separate- but-equal policy was—``however perverse,'' she notes—a wonderful, even beautiful, moral idea. But separation never worked, and equal was constantly perjured by naked racism. The only way out of this quandary was to abjure the ideal. No one thought de Klerk would be the man to do it. No one thought the ANC would control negotiations so completely. Few thought that the process would be as relatively smooth and harmonious as it proved to be. With Mandela's inauguration as president in 1994, Waldmeir writes, ``one of the great psychological transformations of the twentieth century was complete. . . . It was a magical moment in the history of the human spirit.'' Waldmeir's account will be cited and debated for years to come. A notable achievement. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-393-03997-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1997

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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