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Mandela: The Authorised Biography

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The author has known Mandela since the 1950s, and has been given complete access to all his personal papers, to Mandela himself, and to his friends and political associates, to write the full story of Mandela's life. In addition to covering his years before, during and after his incarceration, the author assesses Mandela's impact as President on South Africa and the world. The author has known Mandela since the 1950s, and has been given complete access to all his personal papers, to Mandela himself, and to his friends and political associates, to write the full story of Mandela's life. In addition to covering his years before, during and after his incarceration, the author assesses Mandela's impact as President on South Africa and the world. He also reveals many features of the apartheid system that have hitherto been hidden, and describes the changing attitudes of big business to the ANC and to Mandela himself. The result is an authoritative biography of one of the greatest men of the 20th century.


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The author has known Mandela since the 1950s, and has been given complete access to all his personal papers, to Mandela himself, and to his friends and political associates, to write the full story of Mandela's life. In addition to covering his years before, during and after his incarceration, the author assesses Mandela's impact as President on South Africa and the world. The author has known Mandela since the 1950s, and has been given complete access to all his personal papers, to Mandela himself, and to his friends and political associates, to write the full story of Mandela's life. In addition to covering his years before, during and after his incarceration, the author assesses Mandela's impact as President on South Africa and the world. He also reveals many features of the apartheid system that have hitherto been hidden, and describes the changing attitudes of big business to the ANC and to Mandela himself. The result is an authoritative biography of one of the greatest men of the 20th century.

30 review for Mandela: The Authorised Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    L

    This book gives a comprehensive account of Mandela's political career, his role in the ANC and the S.A. anti-apartheid movement. Coming from a country that shares Commonwealth links with South Africa and which has its own history of colonisation, I started this biography with what I considered to be the slightest hint of background knowledge. On that count I was terribly, terribly mistaken. It's a complex issue, involving many diverse social and political groups and I'm sure it will take me many This book gives a comprehensive account of Mandela's political career, his role in the ANC and the S.A. anti-apartheid movement. Coming from a country that shares Commonwealth links with South Africa and which has its own history of colonisation, I started this biography with what I considered to be the slightest hint of background knowledge. On that count I was terribly, terribly mistaken. It's a complex issue, involving many diverse social and political groups and I'm sure it will take me many more years of reading to attain that 'slight hint of knowledge'. Not that I mind. It's a fascinating subject. But I did feel that Nelson Mandela 'the person' gets a little lost amongst all this comprehensive political coverage. The blurb says that Sampson was given '...unprecedented access to 27 years' worth of unpublished correspondence from prison, as well as to other unpublished writings including [Mandela's] original, suppressed, autobiography.' I want to know where it all went! Aside from a few photographs, almost no primary source material has been reprinted in this book. It's all secondary information, told to us through Sampson's point of view. For example, there are no speeches. We are told about the speeches, and made to believe that they were important, and yet we are barely given a segment of them to read ourselves. Likewise there are no complete letters, and the longest quote runs for half a page. Next on my list is his autobiography; so, until then...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    Public library copy. Not likely to read this straight through because of its length, but I'm going to try. Finished Part 1 before Christmas. January 17, 2017 just passed the halfway mark, making progress. Yesterday being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in America, I read a good portion of Mandela. I read that the political prisoners on Robben Island hated the U.S. in general. I'm up to 1976, when they have been imprisoned for twelve years or more, with no help from the west. They felt rather Public library copy. Not likely to read this straight through because of its length, but I'm going to try. Finished Part 1 before Christmas. January 17, 2017 just passed the halfway mark, making progress. Yesterday being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in America, I read a good portion of Mandela. I read that the political prisoners on Robben Island hated the U.S. in general. I'm up to 1976, when they have been imprisoned for twelve years or more, with no help from the west. They felt rather forgotten. Just over halfway, Mandela is still in prison, incredibly long (imprisonment). Effective leadership, effective governing involves patience, a willingness to listen to your opponent(s), and the ability to talk, wait, talk and wait. #openthedialogue Down to the last forty pages. What a sad story. All that work, and more work, and not being able to achieve his dreams. Not that he was unsuccessful, he succeeded in establishing, peacefully, a multi-racial government, which is huge. But the dream of equality in living (for the black Africans and minority groups), the messes which the apartheid government left for the ANC to clean up, and who knows how much corruption continued as the two groups worked together, was massive. Working together with deKlirk would be like having Obama stay on board while Trump is president.... and then ex-wife Winnie, she's a whole bag of tricks herself. It's a hard story. There's much to consider between ideology and the practical workings of government. There's much to learn about many areas, from Mandela himself and from others. It's an incredible story that so many worked for so many decades unswerving from their cause, which is Mandela's primary strength. His focus, at the cost of his family. This book is well written and documented, using some firsthand information as the author was in and out of South Africa for the entire time of Mandela's public life, some written sources, and many interviews, some by the author, and media sources. It's not too difficult, save for the length. It's fairly clean also, a few places where language is in quotes, but not in the text. A quote from Mandela on page 264: "Honest Men are to be found on both sides of the color line and the Afrikaner is no exception. ... A violent clash is now unavoidable and when we have fought it out and reduced the country to ashes it will still be necessary for us to sit down together and talk about the problems of reconstruction--the back man and the white man, the African and the Afrikaner." Last night I read the last eighteen pages aloud. I especially like the final chapter where the author talks about Image and Reality, comparing the icon with the real Mandela. The author presents Mandela as a genuine person, who because of his commitment to his goal of interracial democratic government, to be achieved without civil war, combined with the inner strengths he developed in prison at Robben Island, was successful in achieving his goal, in spite of missteps along the way, and in spite of the multitude of barriers thrown his way. It came with a price, that of giving up his family for his country, which Mandela himself admits. Mandela's ability to negotiate with the apartheid government, not for himself but for his country, his unswerving goal of freeing all minorities, putting them on equal footing with whites, and his ability to work with all tribes, seeing them all as African, is incredible. This is a great read, though long, which doesn't get dry or lag, but moves right along. It covers much time and much detail and in the end boils it all down to the infallible man, Madiba, who saved South Africa without a civil war. I recommend this book to all interested in the story of apartheid in South Africa or Nelson Mandela or revolution without civil war or you just want something out of the ordinary to read. Enjoy!

  3. 4 out of 5

    KHoopMan

    I took a class in law school about Mandela- he was a lawyer, did you know?- and it was taught by an amazing professor who was the former Dean of the University of Zambia law school. This professor actually KNEW alot of the political figures mentioned in this biography. Just amazing. I think this is the best Mandela biography out there.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Fraser

    I enjoyed this book so much more than "Conversations with Myself". Obviously so much more complete, but so well written, very objectively and yet still a sense of real knowledge about the subject. I initially thought it might be a long hard slog, particularly through the early chapters, but far from it. The book was fascinating at all times of Mandela's life from start to finish. I think the "Long Walk to Freedom" will surely have to be on my list very soon!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tania

    I haven't meet anyone that haven heard the name Nelson Mandela. Fighting apartheid was one of the victories for the world . The fact that this book present the hard task that represent this freedom in South Africa, the cost of achieving it, the fear - I believe- for the change, gives us a only a glimpse. The book describes Mandela before jail, Mandela being in jail and the free man. This last momentum under no circumstances an easy phase. It also gives us perspective that no all fights for I haven't meet anyone that haven heard the name Nelson Mandela. Fighting apartheid was one of the victories for the world . The fact that this book present the hard task that represent this freedom in South Africa, the cost of achieving it, the fear - I believe- for the change, gives us a only a glimpse. The book describes Mandela before jail, Mandela being in jail and the free man. This last momentum under no circumstances an easy phase. It also gives us perspective that no all fights for liberation actually achieve the objective itself. And that could have been the end of South Africa. Only forgiveness, reconciliation and dialogue can drive a country to peace. The sensitive message of the book...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shay

    Worth the Read After reading this book, one understands Mandelas life through Mandelas own eyes, as well as those who knew him best. Incredibly human, very inspiring and full of varying perspectives, every person who reads this book will see Mandela with his achievements, failures, loyalties and shortcomings in a way that honors not only how Mandela influenced his nation and the world, but how his experiences in his struggle turned a naive tribal leader into a global leader who transcended Worth the Read After reading this book, one understands Mandela’s life through Mandela’s own eyes, as well as those who knew him best. Incredibly human, very inspiring and full of varying perspectives, every person who reads this book will see Mandela with his achievements, failures, loyalties and shortcomings in a way that honors not only how Mandela influenced his nation and the world, but how his experiences in his struggle turned a naive tribal leader into a global leader who transcended politics, country and race. An updated version which includes the last part of Mandela’s life would be a great addition.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sukriti

    Took me from ignoramus to insider (I think). A definitive text, awe-inspiring in its detail and research, even if the third half, post Mandela's release, lags a tad.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tom Nixon

    I remember South Africa's first post-apartheid elections in 1994. I went to hear Former President FW De Klerk speak when he was on the University of Iowa campus when I was a freshman. I remember hearing the stories about the life of Nelson Mandela and how he had lead the fight against apartheid and spent nearly two decades in prison. I remember my mother listening to Ladysmith Black Mambazo and watching Sarafina. So I knew about South Africa and I knew about apartheid, but it wasn't until the I remember South Africa's first post-apartheid elections in 1994. I went to hear Former President FW De Klerk speak when he was on the University of Iowa campus when I was a freshman. I remember hearing the stories about the life of Nelson Mandela and how he had lead the fight against apartheid and spent nearly two decades in prison. I remember my mother listening to Ladysmith Black Mambazo and watching Sarafina. So I knew about South Africa and I knew about apartheid, but it wasn't until the World Cup kicked off in early June that I realized that I actually knew very little about Nelson Mandela himself. So, I ran to the local book store and snagged a biography of what the Boston Globe accurately called 'one of the century's most extraordinary lives.' And appropriately, Anthony Sampson's biography lives up to the billing. Sampson, who spent decades in South Africa as a journalist first met Nelson Mandela in 1952 and was given unprecedented access to Mandela's papers and accounts of his time in jail in what is billed as an 'authorized biography.' What emerges is an incredibly detailed portrait of an iconic man that told me so much that I didn't know about Mandela. The first thing that stands out about this biography is that its essentially a meticulous history of contemporary South Africa stretching from before World War II right up until the present day. Things like the Defiance Campaign, the Sharpeville Massacre, the Soweto Riots in the late 70s/early 80s that reignited the fight against apartheid- events that had previously been merely words on a page swung into sharp focus and put together with the regional turmoil that came from the white South African government policy of holding and buttressing the so-called White Redoubt of Rhodesia, Angola and Mozambique- a policy that became more difficult with the collapse of Portuguese rule in the latter two countries after 1975. Cuban intervention in the Angolan Civil War became a Cold War flashpoint and Namibia's (then Southwest Africa) fight for independence put even more pressure on the white government and domestic pressures to end apartheid helped bring the situation to a boiling point by the 1980s that eventually saw Mandela released and apartheid end. However, appropriately because after all it is a biography of the man, the meat of this volume concerns Nelson Mandela. Popular perception, at least in my head seems to think that Mandela has been presented to the world as a sort of Gandhi-like, Martin Luther King Jr-type of figure. Non-violent with gobs of moral authority that lead his country peacefully out of apartheid and into democracy- and while some of that is true, what surprised me was that throughout the struggle against apartheid, Mandela and the ANC never renounced the use of violence. As terrorist groups go, the ANC was far from what I would call successful, never really being able to mount a sustained campaign within South Africa's borders. This failure to renounce violence only perpetrated criticism of Mandela and the ANC as merely a terrorist organization and made it all too easy for the apartheid government to use them as a whipping boy to maintain their hold on power. Were they communists, as many more conservative critics of the ANC and Mandela had charged? Well, yes and no. Early on Mandela seems to have been influenced by socialist thinkers and certainly the Communists within South Africa were important allies in the struggle against apartheid, but unlike many Communist Parties, they didn't really take their marching orders from Moscow. And to his credit, Sampson takes pains to illustrate Mandela's evolution in thinking throughout his time in jail- Mandela's imprisonment being covered in greater detail for the first time. The real astonishing feat of Nelson Mandela came after his release from prison, where he managed to negotiate an end to apartheid and hold his country together, despite the threat of Civil War, which seemed very real in the early 90s. That and the continued stability of South Africa to this day is a testament to his leadership, moral authority and strength in leading first the fight against apartheid and then his country into a democratic future. Overall: Everything you ever wanted to know about Mandela but were afraid to ask in a detailed, meticulous biography that illuminates Mandela's life and accomplishments to the reader

  9. 4 out of 5

    Scott Cox

    I have long been fascinated with the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, but my interested was piqued after the Nobel Peace Prize-winners death in 2013 at 95 years of age. I selected this authorized biography on the basis of a friends recommendation, although the work was published in 1999 prior to Mandelas death (and therefore unfortunately did not include that portion of his life). Biographer Anthony Sampson had the advantage of knowing Mandela since 1951, and had unlimited access to I have long been fascinated with the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, but my interested was piqued after the Nobel Peace Prize-winner’s death in 2013 at 95 years of age. I selected this “authorized” biography on the basis of a friend’s recommendation, although the work was published in 1999 prior to Mandela’s death (and therefore unfortunately did not include that portion of his life). Biographer Anthony Sampson had the advantage of knowing Mandela since 1951, and had unlimited access to information, papers, and correspondence unavailable to many other historians at that time. One of my concerns, however, was whether Sampson could provide an objective analysis of Mandela, the ANC (African National Congress), and those who surrounded and influenced the future South African president (especially his controversial second wife, Winnie). Objectivity remained the major reason why I could not give the biography a full five star rating. Given those concerns, I still highly rate this informative and readable work on a man who helped change the course of history for South Africa, Africa, and the world. Nelson Mandela (“Madiba”), was born into the Thembu royal family of the Xhosa tribe, which provided the future president with a royal, chiefly bearing which never failed to impress those with whom he worked with, and confronted. Mandela was raised as a Methodist, and trained as a lawyer at the University of Witwatersrand, though he claimed his greatest education was obtained at the “University of Robben Island,” the prison where Mandela was held captive for much of his 27 years of incarceration. He was arrested for his involvement with the ANC, which the Afrikaner apartheid government had declared to be illegal. This is where I found the biography to be most informative. The main charges against the ANC was that it was communist and promoted violence. According to Sampson, Mandela was never a member of the South African Communist Party (SACP), though he was highly influenced by communist economic theory and beliefs. The major challenge for the ANC was to find support for their cause, and the SACP was one of the few multiracial parties in the country, or the world, who would remain unflinchingly loyal to the cause of dismantling apartheid (segregation). The other major issue was the ANC’s use of violence or terrorism. Mandela, also known as the “Black Pimpernel,” was responsible for organizing a terrorist unit (MK) to combat the massacres and violent tactics of the ruling Nationalist Party. He refused to dismantle this wing of the ANC as long as Afrikaner government attacks, torture, and killings continued unabated. Later, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu would cite atrocities committed by both sides and supported by leaders of both factions. However Mandela’s growing desire was to use “brains, not blood” to solve South Africa’s problems. In prison, he gained the respect and trust of fellow prisoners as well as guards and wardens. He was a man who sincerely believed that by listening and building relationships, current enemies could “turn 180” to become future friends. He was a man who believed that individuals and society could never forget the past, but that the future was paved by means of forgiveness. Nelson Mandela was not a saint, but a sinner who learned leadership in the way of servanthood. Herein lie the importance and genius of Nelson Mandela. As the Irish poet Seamus Heaney wrote, “But then, once in a lifetime The longed-for tidal wave Of justice can rise up, And hope and history rhyme.”

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Vorwald

    Fascinating book. I wasn't into the ANC and the Afrikaner political power struggle but I did find Mandela's view on armed struggle interesting. He believed that armed struggle was a useful tool in providing leverage to change. What I also found interesting was his relationship with Winnie and his actual attempt at governance after he endured so much. For Winnie, what I found interesting was Mandela's intense loyalty when she was both disloyal sexually with him and also got involved in murders and Fascinating book. I wasn't into the ANC and the Afrikaner political power struggle but I did find Mandela's view on armed struggle interesting. He believed that armed struggle was a useful tool in providing leverage to change. What I also found interesting was his relationship with Winnie and his actual attempt at governance after he endured so much. For Winnie, what I found interesting was Mandela's intense loyalty when she was both disloyal sexually with him and also got involved in murders and killing with her band of thugs known as the Football Club. However, what really fascinated me was the struggle in prison. How he became the leader and endured after so long. I recently read good to great and Anthony Sampson was another fascinating character. He was a two-time POW survivor in the Vietnam war and he said it was important to believe that the ending will be beneficial to you but to never forget the grim reality of the situation. He continued to say that the first people to die are the optimists. They hope for their release to occur at Winter, then it comes and goes, then they hope for release to occur at Easter, and that comes and goes, and then Thanksgiving, and as that comes and goes, their spirits are broken and they will be dead before Christmas. But back to Mandela. Him and his prison mates persevered, survived, and flourished through harsh conditions and inadequate food. Mandela taught the Victorian poem "Invictus" by W.E. Henley to a cellmate of his. It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul. "When you read words of that nature you become encouraged," Mandela said later. "It puts life in you." He wrote in his memoir in prison: "There is a profound truth in the idea that 'man makes himself,' a truth bound up with the whole history of mankind, that has shaped our own history." Each prisoner had his own story usually linked with ancient epics of survival to keep their way. I actually thought there was more of this than just his one page but maybe not... Mandela also handled several situations extremely well...and others not so well. One of the situations he handled really well was in 1992, when Chris Hani, the General Secretary of the Communist Party and former commander of MK, who was see as the second most popular black leader, was shot dead in Boksburg, near Johannesburg. He wrote, "A white man, full of prejudice and hate, came to our country and committed a deed so foul that our whole nation now teeters on the brink of disaster. A white woman, of Afrikaner origin, risked her life so that we may know, and bring to justice, this assassin." Well spoken and eloquent, Mandela is a man that all men should aspire to be. Not necessarily his viewpoints and his world-renown status, but the qualities of loyalty, leadership, courage, confidence, and forgiveness that we all struggle with on a day to day basis.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Devin Wallace

    As one of the most important political figures of the 20th century, it's no suprise that the autobiography of Nelson Mandela weighs in at over 500 pages. His life moves from the poor tribal villages of South Africa, to the bustling city streets, to Robben Island, the prison where he spent two decades locked up by the Afrikaner government, and finally to the stately manors of the government he led. The biography is informative; no one can doubt that. Anthony Sampson documents Mandela's life in As one of the most important political figures of the 20th century, it's no suprise that the autobiography of Nelson Mandela weighs in at over 500 pages. His life moves from the poor tribal villages of South Africa, to the bustling city streets, to Robben Island, the prison where he spent two decades locked up by the Afrikaner government, and finally to the stately manors of the government he led. The biography is informative; no one can doubt that. Anthony Sampson documents Mandela's life in startling detail, which in some cases is the problem. It's the perenial problem of a biographer to choose what is written about a man with such a historic legacy. Sampson seems to think that more content equals more quality. In many cases, he is right. The depth of information is incredible. You're able to see Mandela's subtle working of his close friends and political allies to accomplish gains for black South Africans. Yet the information becomes tedious. It's not neccessary to catalogue every last conversation or contact Mandela made in his life. It's as if Sampson couldn't make the decision of what to include and what to leave out, so he left it up to the reader to pick out the useful information. In many cases, I had to skim pages looking for important details (unless you want to spend a year studying the man, this is what you'll have to do). But Sampson seems to realize his mistake towards the latter part of Mandela's life, which is his biggest mistake. After reading page after page of Mandela the child, and then Mandela the student, complete with every last tribal aquaintence, you're ready to immerse yourself in Mandela the politician. It's arguably his most controversial period among his supporters, where he was criticised for being too concilliatory to the previous Afrikaner government. But Sampson leaves out a hefty chunk of the political Mandela, focusing more on his personal life during these times. While no one should expect a detailed political analysis in a biography, leaving out those details leaves behind a serious part of Nelson Mandella.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Willy

    Rarely do revered leaders not fall from their pedestal after leaving the office from which they could control their image. I have always had the impression Nelson Mandela is an exception to that rule; and wondering why that is made me start reading this book. Historically, I believe the book gives a good overview of Mandela's role in the struggle against apartheid. A comprehensive view on apartheid, however, misses the Afrikaner perspective. Insight provided why Mandela escapes the fate of much Rarely do revered leaders not fall from their pedestal after leaving the office from which they could control their image. I have always had the impression Nelson Mandela is an exception to that rule; and wondering why that is made me start reading this book. Historically, I believe the book gives a good overview of Mandela's role in the struggle against apartheid. A comprehensive view on apartheid, however, misses the Afrikaner perspective. Insight provided why Mandela escapes the fate of much of his kin, is discussed, but remains shallow and leaves me wanting. More of a character study would have been appropriate. HarperCollins publishes an interview with the writer in which this is debated further. Perhaps the best recommendation for aspiring leaders is to spend 27 years in jail. Part two's opening chapter 'Master of my Fate' lists the undeniable benefits: [...] At an age, at which most politicians, on their way to power, are inclined to forget their early ideals, Mandela was forced to think about his principles and ideals. In the microcosm of prison, detached from political temptations - stages, megaphones, newspapers, crowds, business suits - and restricted to contact with his colleagues only, he could, as he himself described, learn and see his person as others did[...] ( my translation from Dutch ).

  13. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Just 200 pages in, but the content is informative, the writing flows well and what a great and complicated and conflicted and amazing human being this guy is. Good to read about the nuances that we didn't get in the news. My comment on why I read Orwell has progressed. I think reading about people's lives reminds us that it is very difficult to categorize or judge anyone, ever, when their intentions are ultimately good, even when misguided. Reading about the lives of great and famous allows me Just 200 pages in, but the content is informative, the writing flows well and what a great and complicated and conflicted and amazing human being this guy is. Good to read about the nuances that we didn't get in the news. My comment on why I read Orwell has progressed. I think reading about people's lives reminds us that it is very difficult to categorize or judge anyone, ever, when their intentions are ultimately good, even when misguided. Reading about the lives of great and famous allows me -an ordinary and average man- to forgive myself for the mistakes I have made and helps build the courage to take the chances and risks in life that lead to potentially good things. Need to work that out some more... ...haven't worked that out much more..but finished the Mandela book last night and I have a new hero (my definition of hero usually involves paying as much attention to the major faults as the great accomplishments) to add to my list. This guy didn't become President until the same age Reagan was when he left office (wasn't he like, 104?). Certainly 30 years in prison is no cakewalk, but to me it sounded as if his election was only the beginning of his most difficult time in life. And he shined like the wise old bird that he is. 90 years in, he still looks as beautiful and as strong as ever. Happy belated birthday, Madiba.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Siria

    This brick of a biography provides a very comprehensive account of the political career of Nelson Mandela, his involvement in the ANC, and the anti-apartheid movement. Anthony Sampson is stronger cataloguing the earlier part of Mandela's career, when I believe he had more first-hand knowledge of events; I got the sense he was eliding quite a bit in his look at Mandela's political career and personal life after his release from prison. Painful passages in Mandela's life are mentioned but not This brick of a biography provides a very comprehensive account of the political career of Nelson Mandela, his involvement in the ANC, and the anti-apartheid movement. Anthony Sampson is stronger cataloguing the earlier part of Mandela's career, when I believe he had more first-hand knowledge of events; I got the sense he was eliding quite a bit in his look at Mandela's political career and personal life after his release from prison. Painful passages in Mandela's life are mentioned but not really assessed in depth. I'm also still not sure I got much of a sense of Mandela as a person, as opposed to Mandela the politician, though I can't quite decide if that was a function of Sampson as biographer or of Mandela's own tendency towards reserve. Still, for all that Sampson was a friend of Mandela and this is an authorised work, this isn't quite a hagiography, and is a very readable account of a fascinating life.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kt

    so hard to get through. i was hoping for a little more history and not so much recap of conversations that Mr Mandela had with a ridiculous amount of people. the whole first half of the book is all about the many different political organizations that formed before and during the apartheid, but the author didn't go into any detail about the apartheid itself. it was not easy to finish and i felt the author was ridiculously meticulous in his explanation about things that were not interesting and so hard to get through. i was hoping for a little more history and not so much recap of conversations that Mr Mandela had with a ridiculous amount of people. the whole first half of the book is all about the many different political organizations that formed before and during the apartheid, but the author didn't go into any detail about the apartheid itself. it was not easy to finish and i felt the author was ridiculously meticulous in his explanation about things that were not interesting and too vague about things that would interest the reader and create more of a story. it felt censored to me. and i finished not feeling like i knew Mandela any better than before i started.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tina Alston

    This story has an epic sense of the Hero's Life while capturing what makes him so human. He has "grown up in Public" No matter how the authorities tried to squash his voice, we are privy to so much of his own writings and his amazing evolution during the monastic like time in prison--over two decades. The reactions of monarchs, other heads of state as well as his enemies reveals the proud and wise regal demeanor of this man. This biography goes well with a collection of his own writings and This story has an epic sense of the Hero's Life while capturing what makes him so human. He has "grown up in Public" No matter how the authorities tried to squash his voice, we are privy to so much of his own writings and his amazing evolution during the monastic like time in prison--over two decades. The reactions of monarchs, other heads of state as well as his enemies reveals the proud and wise regal demeanor of this man. This biography goes well with a collection of his own writings and sayings: Mandela In His Own Words with timely introduction by President Obama.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Connie Kronlokken

    A very detailed biography by a British journalist who knew Mandela from 1951 until the book was published in 1999. It uncovered for me some of the confusing conflicts in South Africa and explained the private problems which went on behind the engaging politician's life. "Mandela emerged from jail to face up to his overwhelming global icon; and he did so by presenting himself as a fallible human being. His biography in the end converged with his mythology; and it was his essential integrity more A very detailed biography by a British journalist who knew Mandela from 1951 until the book was published in 1999. It uncovered for me some of the confusing conflicts in South Africa and explained the private problems which went on behind the engaging politician's life. "Mandela emerged from jail to face up to his overwhelming global icon; and he did so by presenting himself as a fallible human being. His biography in the end converged with his mythology; and it was his essential integrity more than his superhuman myth which gave his story its appeal across the world," says Sampson.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Johns

    This selection was prompted by my brother's recent trip to South Africa. I realized that I don't know very much about Mr. Mandela, and I should. And I read about 200 pages and bailed on it. The book is well researched and written. I just couldn't keep my interest up with reading sessions of 5-10 minutes. I think the best part of the book was the history of South Africa and political/diplomatic insights offered as context.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    This big biography covers a big man. Mandela was in an amazing, contemporary, power struggle in the building of South Africa's democracy. His use of dialog and reconciliation is stunning. His success is partly due to his steadfast alliance with the ANC, his political party, and in large part due to the world economy's reaction to apartheid. After his release, the book describes his small fall from mythical to human. Inspirational reading.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Simon Zohhadi

    Just started this biography of one of the 3 most charismatic and important leaders of the last 60 years, the others being Gorbachev and Khomeini. Their importance and influence cannot be understated. Mandela is without a doubt an extraordinary man and politician and I am looking forward to getting a more in depth understanding of the great man and his life. One of the very few who exceeded the myth.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. Kelly

    I believe this is the definitive biography of Nelson Mandela. It is very detailed and well researched, as all of Anthony Sampson's investigative writing is. The reader gains a great understanding of Mandela's early life, the values underlying his political work and the sacrifices he made to achieve the defeat of apartheid in S. Africa. It's a long read, but well worth it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    Great that it's so comprehensive; as an economic historian, didn't really offer much into his policies or his political or economic successes or failures, and in that way, I found the book lacking and biased. Good for a general overview of the man himself and the evolution of the ANC.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ciaran Mcfadden

    Excellent biography of Nelson Mandela. From his early days, through childhood, the struggle, imprisonment and then freedom. Very well written and very detailed .. IMO a better insight to Mandela than "Long Walk to Freedom".

  24. 5 out of 5

    Betty

    An excellent book, well written and showing that Mandela was not alone in bringing about change in South Africa. Without the instigation and help of several people surrounding him, Mandela would not have become the man he is!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Biba

    It seems sacrilegious to give a book about Nelson Mandela 1 star, but it articulated on too many uninteresting topics. I should admit, I didn't finish it. It was due back at the library, but I won't be checking it out again.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Resistance by peaceful means can change the world. Mandela's struggle emphasized the other side of the coin from what I was reading at the time.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lisa4piano Brown

    Allright, I wouldn't say I "finished" the book. I skimmed a ton! It is a huge book, I didn't need every minute detail of his life, I just wanted the basics. What a great man!!!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    EXCELLENT! I think Nelson Mandela is the only living person I feel in awe of as a human being.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Good

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Excellent read, very objective description of a great man's life. Sadly my interested decreased dramatically once I left South Africa so my pace slooooooowed down.

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