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4.0 out of 5 stars A short yet significant eulogy., 26 Dec. 2013
By 
R. J. Farrer (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Knowing Mandela (Hardcover)
There will be many post-mortems on the character and significance of Nelson Mandela. This short book by the journalist John Carlin is one of the first. At only 144 pages I quite expected a superficial run-through of Mandela's background and career after his release, but in fact the book is powerful, serious and focused.
Carlin was working for the Independent and other periodicals in South Africa just before and immediately after Mandela regained his freedom. He was trusted by Madiba and met him formally and informally several times.
The book does not pretend to be a full biography but instead concentrates on a few key moments which tested Mandela's political skill and grasp of strategy.

Carlin recognises the huge burden carried by Winnie during her husband's years of incarceration. While Mandela was forced into hard physical labour Winnie was regularly abused, humiliated and bullied by the apartheid police state. Her life outside prison was hardly any easier than Mandela's on Robben Island. It should not surprise us that she turned to others for help and comfort. It was a great sadness, but no shock to either party, that their relationship could not be rekindled.

The book is at its most compelling and confident when talking in detail about the political challenges which tested Mandela after his release in February 1990. The ANC was popular but militarily weak, De Klerk could not afford to make too many concessions too fast and Buthelezi's Inkatha movement meant that Mandela could not yet speak for all black South Africans.
There is a popular myth that the transition to black majority rule in South Africa was seamless and peaceful after Mandela was released. Carlin rightly disabuses us of this naivety. More than ten thousand people died in the Johannesburg area alone during the four and a half years after Mandela's release (p53). Nearly all the victims were black. The whole project could have gone horribly wrong after the murder of ANC veteran activist Chris Hani by a white man. Black ANC supporters wanted revenge, not peace. There were some revenge murders, but in a brilliant speech (parts of it quoted in this book) at the soccer stadium in Katlehong on 5th August 1993, Mandela offered the angry crowd of 10,000 a choice between his programme of measured negotiation, or chaos and inter-racial strife. They opted for Mandela. His oratory had changed the mood from hate to hope.

Carlin earlier wrote a book about the unifying rugby final in which the South African side, captained by blond Afrikaner Francois Piennar, beat New Zealand to win the Rugby World Cup in 1995. There is no doubting the importance of that moment for helping to heal some of the old wounds. Mandela appeared in Ellis Park Stadium wearing a Springbok shirt. That symbol was quite remarkable as a metaphor for the human capacity for reconciliation. The tale is retold in chapter 7 of this book. It will familiar to most readers who have seen the film 'Invictus'.

The book recognises that there are still those in South Africa who have yet to acknowledge the Rainbow Nation ideal. It is also starkly obvious that South Africa remains a land of gross economic inequality based often but not always, on skin colour.

It is Carlin's aim, in this short book, to stress that without the vision and magnanimity of Mandela his country would have almost certainly descended into a brutal and lengthy civil war.
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5.0 out of 5 stars excellant!, 17 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Knowing Mandela (Kindle Edition)
Another author another view point but all the time the same end result. The same vision of this great legend of a man. The more I read the more he transcends every human being that has gone before. The man is a saint the like of which will never be seen again, sadly! As I write this after reading the book the wars in various parts of the world I can't help but think ..........if only there was someone like him to guide them then things might work out better than it looks as if they will!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Knowing Mandela: a personal portrait, 5 Jan. 2014
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Through this book one gets an in-depth and moving picture of this remarkable man. John Carlin writes with clarity and honesty of his journalistic and personal association with Nelson Mandela, which makes one respect the great man even more.
I would recommend the book to anyone who is interested in getting to understand Mandela more intimately.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Knowing Mandela: A Personal Portrait is an intimate look at one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, 17 Jun. 2014
By 
Christopher J. Cowen (glenville, PA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Knowing Mandela (Kindle Edition)
Knowing Mandela: A Personal Portrait by John Carlin is a very intimate look at one of the most important men of the 20th century and 21st century. The book shows Nelson Mandela as a total man with all his flaws and deficiencies. But within this man is greatness and the author does a great job at showing you the reader his strength. The book is clearly very well researched from extensive interviews with Mandela himself as well as people who were close to him. The book shows the reader what Nelson Mandela was all about. I enjoyed this book and I think you will too. I would definitely recommend, Knowing Mandela: A Personal Portrait.

Thank you for reading my review.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great account of a deep friendship., 7 May 2014
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This review is from: Knowing Mandela (Hardcover)
Carlin's approach, a mixture of great respect and affection, gives a clear picture of Mandela the Man, just as much as Mandela the Hero. This is a factual but also moving account of a long and affecting friendship over many years.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 2 April 2015
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D. Njoku (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Knowing Mandela (Paperback)
Quite interesting and insightful.
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Knowing Mandela
Knowing Mandela by John Carlin (Paperback - 5 Jun. 2014)
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