Nelson Mandela has always been one of my heroes and his autobiographical Long Walk to Freedom is one of the most compelling and inspiring books I have ever read, a volume I frequently return to. Therefore, it gives me little pleasure to report that this new book is a great disappointment. The prospect of reading the thoughts of the 'private' Mandela is indeed an exciting one, but these extracts from his conversations with friends, notebooks and random jottings have little new to say. A large part of the problem lies in the editing-although the book is organized thematically insufficient detail is offered on the historical context and despite the biographical chapter at the end many personalities are mentioned without explanation. Then again, many of the entries are undated and it is often not clear whether Mandela is referring to people before or after they died or looking back on contemporary or historical events. Most damningly of all, it has to be said that many of these entries would never have never come close to publication had they not been penned by Mandela-they are no more than lists or scribbles with little value outside of their context. Of course there are insights not least into the depth of Mandela's advocacy of armed struggle when no alternative exists or in his stubborn refusal to discuss details of his private life. That said the most powerful entries are those which show the depths of his loneliness on Robben Island where his desperation breaks through his words. What is also clear from this volume is just how carefully controlled all of Mandela's public utterances are and I would suggest this book is no exception. Mandela place in history is secure, but reading this volume is not the place to discover why.
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