ANATOMY OF A MIRACLE by Patti Waldmeir


The End of Apartheid and the Birth of the New South Africa
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 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 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-393-03997-8
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1997


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