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Mandela: A Critical Life

Striking in appearance--six foot four and physically imposing--with an aristocratic bearing and incredible charm and self-assurance, Nelson Mandela is the greatest African leader in modern history, an iconic figure the world over.
Now, in this new and highly revealing biography, Tom Lodge draws on a wide range of original sources to uncover a host of fresh insights about the shaping of Mandela's personality and public persona, from his childhood days and early activism, through his twenty-seven years of imprisonment, to
his presidency of the new South Africa. The book follows Mandela from his education at two elite Methodist boarding schools to his role as a moderating but powerful force in the African National Congress. Throughout, Lodge emphasizes the crucial interplay between Mandela's public career and his
private world, revealing how Mandela drew moral and political strength from encounters in which everyday courtesy and even generosity softened conflict. Indeed, the lessons Mandela learned as a child about the importance of defeating ones opponents without dishonoring them were deeply engrained.
They shaped a politics of grace and honor that was probably the only approach that could have enabled South Africa's relatively peaceful transition to democracy.
Here then is a penetrating look at one of the most celebrated political figures of our time, illuminating a pivotal moment in recent world history.

"Authoritative and fair-minded...deserves to be read widely."
--Adam Roberts, The Economist

"A fascinating, indeed riveting, and plausible as well as persuasive examination of why NelsonMandela should have acquired a world following and can remain as he does an iconic figure even in the 21st century. It is certain to provoke much heated debate."
--Desmond Tutu
Product Details

Table of Contents

1. Childhood and Upbringing ; 2. Becoming a Notable ; 3. Volunteer-in-Chief ; 4. Making a Messiah ; 5. Trials ; 6. Prisoner 466/64 ; 7. Leading from Prison ; 8. Messianic Politics and the Transition to Democracy ; 9. Embodying the Nation

About the Author

Tom Lodge was a member of the Department of Political Studies at the University of Witwatersrand between 1978 and 2005. He is now Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Limerick University in Ireland. He has also worked in the United States as Director of the Africa Program at the Social Science Research Council. He is the author of five other books on South African politics, including an authoritative history text on the post-Second World War history of black resistance.


Nelson Mandela is perhaps the world's most revered living political figure for his role in transforming South Africa into a true democracy. In this illuminating bio, University of Limerick professor Lodge (Politics in South Africa) shows how Mandela's struggle for equality brought him to prominence. Though Mandela is hardly lacking biographers, Lodge makes an important contribution with his argument that Mandela's appeal rests on his ability to personify his political beliefs. Mandela's politics, which emphasize a mix of authority, empathy and respect for all people, are mirrored by his actions and behavior toward everyone he's come in contact with, thereby allowing his personal grace and dignity to be a political gesture. According to Lodge, Mandela's magnanimity serves as a model for a new kind of citizenship, one that embraces difference and the messiness of democracy without sacrificing the gentlemanly restraint Mandela associated with English political institutions. Lodge is careful to give Mandela an assertive role in this process, showing how he cultivated his own life story and his status as a martyr for justice in order to hasten the coming of democracy to his country. Vivid descriptions of the daily horrors of apartheid and the men and women around Mandela, such as his ex-wife Winnie and the troubled F.W. de Klerk, reveal the complicated world that Mandela ultimately and triumphantly managed to change. 17 b&w photos not seen by PW. (Sept. 30) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Lodge has written a great biography. Not only has he consulted earlier studies of Mandela, as well as Mandela's own Long Walk to Freedom, but he has delved into diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, and other sources to write a thorough, engaging, and exemplary history of one of the world's great leaders. Lodge details the early years of the South African statesman, showing how his upbringing instilled in him the civility, pride, compassion, and honor he revealed throughout his public life and during his imprisonment from 1962 to1990. As Lodge demonstrates, Mandela views his worldly, heroic status with ambivalence (he is most at ease with children present), and his love for former wife Winnie Mandela, from whom he separated in 1992, evidently endures to this day. Lodge's definitive study examines the genesis of Mandela's public and private character and credos as well as his mythic effect upon African and 20th-century history. The book, which includes maps, photos (not seen), a chronology, and an abbreviations list, has a literate style that makes it suitable for academic as well as all public libraries. Highly recommended.-James Thorsen, Madison Cty. Schs., Weaverville, NC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

A balanced critical biography. * Sarah Ruden, Standpoint *

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