Thursday, December 5, 2013

Long Walk to Freedom, A Book Review: Dedication to Nelson Mandela: His Long Walk Ended

Nelson Mandela
   DEDICATION:  Nelson Mandela died today, Thursday, December 5, 2013, the anniversary of his arrest and detention (prefacing his 27 years in prison).   I dedicate my blog post, today, to a man of uncommon grace who dedicated his life to abolish apartheid and to lead South Africans to a life of freedom. He will be remembered for many wonderful qualities, none more important than forgiving his enemies and loving those who harmed him and his fellow countrymen. Nelson Mandela leaves behind a legacy of love, hope, and kindness. I am very sad today. I have long admired this wonderful man. My love and condolences to Nelson Mandela's family, friends, and to all who love him.
Long Walk to Freedom by
Nelson Mandela.
Book Review by
Sharon Powers.
[Note: This post has been updated with the new date for the upcoming movie (See below).]
  On February 11, 1990, I was having a won- derful day with my family and friends. We had a lovely dinner and watched a movie on the television. A while later, I turned on the television to watch the news and was surprised to see plastered all over all the networks, the news story that in South Africa, after twenty-seven years, Nelson Mandela had been released from prison. It was THE news of the day (and for many days that followed).

  Before February 11, 1990, we all watched the daily news on the network channels about what was happening in South Africa regarding its people and the struggle against apartheid. The news networks showed that apartheid was becoming increasingly unpopular and that demonstrations against apartheid were taking place in many different countries...virtually all over the world, and even in the U.S. 
Demonstrators against apartheid,
here, the Coalition of Labor
Union Women.
In the United States demonstrators
had the rights of peaceful protest,
while in South Africa, peaceful pro-
testors would often be met with
gunfire and death.

   Well-known leader against apartheid and president of the African National Congress (ANC), Nelson Mandela, from his early days as a young man in South Africa, grew into a political leader and advocate for human rights and racial equality. In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela chronicles his days from his childhood until shortly after his release from prison...much of the book was secretly written while he was in prison.

In 1993, Nelson Mandela (on left) and F.W. de Klerk
(on right) receive the Nobel Peace Prize for their
shared roles in ending apartheid.
     Nelson Mandela describes how he grew in knowledge, sophistication, and experience and then seized opportunities to fight against apartheid. He describes how he championed the movement towards a multiracial government and majority rule.

     Gradually, Nelson Mandela grew in importance and stature to become internationally known and respected. Nowhere was he respected more, however, than in his beloved South Africa. After his freedom he became president of South Africa and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his lifelong struggle against racial oppression in South Africa. Nelson Mandela explains that the cost of the struggle was great; that even though he had won the hearts of his fellow countrymen and the respect of the world, the struggle had cost him his family. Nelson Mandela observed that, "When your life is the struggle, as mine was, there is little room left for family" [Kindle Location: 1077].

The Scarlet Pimpernel,
by Baroness Orczy.
     Long Walk to Freedom, is broken into eleven distinct sections. Nelson Mandela starts the book by describing his early upbringing in, A Country Childhood. In Part Two, he describes his young adult life in "Johannesburg." Part Three describes how Nelson Mandela became a freedom fighter in: "Birth of A Freedom Fighter." In Part four, Nelson Mandela describes how the struggle consumes his whole life in: "The Struggle is My Life." Part five describes the results of the prolonged court trial in, "Treason." Part Six describes Nelson Mandela's underground exploits as he flees the authorities: he was dubbed, "The Black Pimpernel," by the press because of his ability to evade the authorities, much as had "...Baroness Orczy's fictional character the Scarlet Pimpernel, who daringly evaded capture during the French Revolution" (Kindle Location: 4807).

Robben Island Jail Cell of Nelson Mandela.
     The latter half of the book consists of Part seven: "Rivonia," which, as Nelson Mandela puts it, is "...a bucolic northern suburb of Johannesburg." (Kindle Location: 5023); it is at this time that "The Black Pimpernel" is caught and the stage set for his term of imprisonment. Parts eight and nine are about Nelson Mandela's time on Robben Island: The Dark Years and Beginning to hope. Parts ten and eleven wind up the book in "Talking with the Enemy" and "Freedom."

     Nelson Mandela's book, Long Walk to Freedom, has been made into a feature film, due to be released  CHRISTMAS DAY, December 25, 2013. I have for your enjoyment, this trailer from YouTube about the upcoming movie. The director is Justin Chadwick; the writer, William Nicholson (screenplay), the actors cast in the movie are as follows: Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela, Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela, Tony Kgoroge as Walter Sisulu, Deon Lotz as Kobie Coetzee, Terry Pheto as Evelyn, Lindiwe Matxhikiza as Zindzi Mandela, Jamie Bartlett as James Gregory, and Riaad Moosa as Ahmed Kathrada.

Amnesty International.
     First, I like that Nelson Mandela writes about his failures as well as his successes and addresses negative viewpoints as well as the positive ones. For example, he recognizes that many people disagreed with his eventual acceptance of violence to further the ANC cause. He states that even "...Amnesty International would not campaign for us on the grounds that we had pursued an armed struggle, and their organization would not represent anyone who had embraced violence....[And,] for that reason that I assumed the Nobel committee would never consider [that kind of] man...for the peace prize" [Kindle location 10988].

Poster for the movie:
Long Walk to Freedom.
     Admitting faults, flaws, and negative attributes are difficult for anyone. Doing so, obviously, makes you a target for potential criticism. And, even if you are a strong person, as Nelson Mandela certainly is, it would take an incredible amount of fortitude to be so frank. This fact alone makes me admire the forthrightness with which Nelson Mandela writes his book.

     Second, Nelson Mandela shows us, repeatedly, that he is like any other man with his loves and hates, foibles and strengths, and his misgivings and doubts. We also get to see how different he is from the average person in his attitudes toward reconciliation, belief in the innate goodness of others, and his unwavering fortitude in the face of adversity. Somehow, Nelson Mandela embraces that dichotomy and is able to straddle the gap and convincingly portray his own dual nature.

Nelson Mandela
at the age of nineteen,
in Umtata, Transkei (P.K.A.
Gaeshwe/Black Star)
from the end of the book--
one of 47 photos included
at the end of the book.
     Third, something I didn't like about the book. Nelson Mandela lists name after name, meeting after meeting, location after location, to the extent that it seemed to detract from the story, at times. I would have liked to have seen some of the factual information presented put into end notes in the book. I found this criticism to be especially true in the middle third of the book where he is relating his growth as a political person and the endless meetings he attended.

    I recognize that it is important to document the factual information necessary in such a complex and important autobiography, just...I would have preferred some of the factual information to be placed as end notes. It just got a bit dry in the middle of the book. This may not be true for you if you love politics and like to hear about the details of numerous meetings, however. Just saying...for me it was a bit dry in the middle of the book.

The yard on Robben Island where the prisoners, including
Nelson Mandela, broke rocks with a hammer all day long.
This is one of the 47 photographs included (at the back of
the book) in Long Walk to Freedom.
     Fourth, something I really loved! One of the things we all want to know is how did Nelson Mandela come out of twenty-seven years of prison and not be filled with hatred. In several places in the book, he talks about how he was able to deal with being in prison. In fact, Nelson Mandela says that his anger towards "the whites" actually decreased while his hatred for "the system" grew.

     Emphasizing this attitude, Nelson Mandela said that he wanted "...South Africa to see that [he] loved even [his] enemies while [he] hated the system that turned us against one another" He acknowledges a practical side to this attitude, too, saying that the he didn't "...want to destroy the country before we freed it, and to drive the whites away would devastate the nation" [Kindle location 10187].
    A number of beautiful examples, in the book, relate his attitude of not hating: the story of the abusive prison guard, and one about the stern prison commander; even in the stories about factions among the other prisoners, we can see Nelson Mandela's thoughtfulness, love and practicality. These are the parts I liked best in the book...the parts where I, as a reader, got to see the intelligent humanity of Nelson Mandela.

     Today, I have two quotes because I just could not settle on one. Nelson Mandela said, "I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity...[and that] [e]ven in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards...enough to reassure me and keep me going" [Kindle Location 11191]. So, that having been said, here is my favorite quote, again, from Kindle location 11191, with no further explanation needed:

So many beautiful, wonderful quotes exist in this book, Long Walk to Freedom. I had such
a difficult time selecting only one...alas, I could only narrow it down to two; so, here is the
first quote and the second quote is related to it, just below.

When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both. Some say that has now been achieved. But I know that that is not the case. The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others...I have walked that long road to freedom...But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb...I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended. [Kindle location 11231].

     I LOVE THIS QUOTE! I am so glad to see Nelson Mandela's "mission" (not just his "goal") was to liberate both, the oppressed peoples as well as the oppressor. That Nelson Mandela can see that the oppressor also needs to be freed shows just how aware he is of the chains that bind all of us. Here, he acknowledges, not that they have won the struggle to deconstruct the apartheid regime, but that now that apartheid as a policy is demolished, the struggle must begin to erase racism from the hearts and minds of the people, as well. Beautiful, just beautiful! Now, only after finishing reading the book, can I truly appreciate the meaning behind the title. I love that the title to the book was chosen from this section of text. Just amazing.

MY RATING AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THIS BOOK: I find this book easy to rate. I loved the book and warmly recommend that everyone should read it. This book easily rates four stars.
Four Stars out of five.

About This Book:
Publisher: Little Brown & Co.
Publication Date: 10-01-95
Library of Congress: BL99767646
ASIN: B00E4606SQ

     I hope you have enjoyed reading and exploring a little bit about Nelson Mandela's book, Long Walk to Freedom, soon to be released as a feature film (January 3, 2014). Until we meet again, next time, I hope you find a delicious book to read and enjoy. If you do, please let me know about it.

Until next time . . .
White Rose.

. . . I wish you many happy pages of reading.

______________________________________________________ – Nelson Mandela; - Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela; - U.S. peceful protests; - Coalition of Labor Union Union Women; - Nelson Mandela receiving the Nobel Peace Prize; - Amazon's book: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy; - Robben Island Jail Cell; - YouTube Trailer; - Amnesty International; - Poster for movie, Long Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela, 19 years old; - Prison yard photo; - Nelson Mandela in his prison cell; - Nelson Mandela on hate and love; - Four Stars out of five; - White Rose.