Cover image for The prison letters of Nelson Mandela / edited by Sahm Venter ; foreword by Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela.
Title:
The prison letters of Nelson Mandela / edited by Sahm Venter ; foreword by Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela.
ISBN:
9781631491177
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., [2018]
Physical Description:
xv, 620 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), map ; 25 cm
Contents:
Foreword / Introduction -- A note on the letters -- Nelson Mandela's prison numbers -- Pretoria Local Prison, November 1962-May 1963 -- Robben Island Maximum Security Prison, May 1963-June 1963 -- Robben Island Maximum Security Prison, June 1964-March 1982 -- Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison, March 1982-August 1988 -- Tygerberg Hospital & Constantiaberg MediClinic, August-December 1988 -- Victor Verster Prison, December 1988-February 1990 -- Supplementary information.
Abstract:
"An unforgettable portrait of one of the most inspiring historical figures of the twentieth century, published on the centenary of his birth. Arrested in 1962 as South Africa's apartheid regime intensified its brutal campaign against political opponents, forty-four-year-old lawyer and African National Congress activist Nelson Mandela had no idea that he would spend the next twenty-seven years in jail. During his 10,052 days of incarceration, the future leader of South Africa wrote a multitude of letters to unyielding prison authorities, fellow activists, government officials, and, most memorably, to his courageous wife, Winnie, and his five children. Now, 255 of these letters, many of which have never been published, provide exceptional insight into how Mandela maintained his inner spirits while living in almost complete isolation, and how he engaged with an outside world that became increasingly outraged by his plight. Organized chronologically and divided by the four venues in which he was held as a sentenced prisoner, The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela begins in Pretoria Local Prison, where Mandela was held following his 1962 trial. In 1964, Mandela was taken to Robben Island Prison, where a stark existence was lightened only by visits and letters from family. After eighteen years, Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison, a large complex outside of Cape Town with beds and better food, but where he and four of his comrades were confined to a rooftop cell, apart from the rest of the prison population. Finally, Mandela was taken to Victor Verster Prison in 1988, where he was held until his release on February 11, 1990. With accompanying facsimiles of some of his actual letters, this landmark volume reveals how Mandela, a lawyer by training, advocated for prisoners' human rights. It reveals him to be a loving father, who wrote to his daughter, "I sometimes wish science could invent miracles and make my daughter get her missing birthday cards and have the pleasure of knowing that her Pa loves her," aware that photos and letters he sent had simply disappeared. More painful still are the letters written in 1969, when Mandela--forbidden from attending the funerals of his mother and his son Thembi--was reduced to consoling family members through correspondence. Yet, what emerges most powerfully is Mandela's unfaltering optimism: "Honour belongs to those who never forsake the truth even when things seem dark & grim, who try over and & over again, who are never discouraged by insults, humiliation & even defeat." Whether providing unwavering support to his also-imprisoned wife or outlining a human-rights philosophy that resonates today, The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela reveals the heroism of a man who refused to compromise his moral values in the face of extraordinary punishment. Ultimately, these letters position Mandela as one of the most inspiring figures of the twentieth century."
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Summary

Summary

Arrested in 1962 as South Africa's apartheid regime intensified its brutal campaign against political opponents, forty-four-year-old lawyer and African National Congress activist Nelson Mandela had no idea that he would spend the next twenty-seven years in jail. During his 10,052 days of incarceration, the future leader of South Africa wrote a multitude of letters to unyielding prison authorities, fellow activists, government officials, and, most memorably, to his courageous wife, Winnie, and his five children. Now, 255 of these letters, many of which have never been published, provide exceptional insight into how Mandela maintained his inner spirits while living in almost complete isolation, and how he engaged with an outside world that became increasingly outraged by his plight.Organized chronologically and divided by the four venues in which he was held as a sentenced prisoner, The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela begins in Pretoria Local Prison, where Mandela was held following his 1962 trial. In 1964, Mandela was taken to Robben Island Prison, where a stark existence was lightened only by visits and letters from family. After eighteen years, Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison, a large complex outside of Cape Town with beds and better food, but where he and four of his comrades were confined to a rooftop cell, apart from the rest of the prison population. Finally, Mandela was taken to Victor Verster Prison in 1988, where he was held until his release on February 11, 1990.With accompanying facsimiles of some of his actual letters, this landmark volume reveals how Mandela, a lawyer by training, advocated for prisoners' human rights. It reveals him to be a loving father, who wrote to his daughter, "I sometimes wish science could invent miracles and make my daughter get her missing birthday cards and have the pleasure of knowing that her Pa loves her," aware that photos and letters he sent had simply disappeared.More painful still are the letters written in 1969, when Mandela--forbidden from attending the funerals of his mother and his son Thembi--was reduced to consoling family members through correspondence. Yet, what emerges most powerfully is Mandela's unfaltering optimism: "Honour belongs to those who never forsake the truth even when things seem dark & grim, who try over and & over again, who are never discouraged by insults, humiliation & even defeat."Whether providing unwavering support to his also-imprisoned wife or outlining a human-rights philosophy that resonates today, The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela reveals the heroism of a man who refused to compromise his moral values in the face of extraordinary punishment. Ultimately, these letters position Mandela as one of the most inspiring figures of the twentieth century. From The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela "A new world will be won not by those who stand at a distance with their arms folded, but by those who are in the arena, whose garments are torn by storms & whose bodies are maimed in the course of contest.""I am convinced that floods of personal disaster can never drown a determined revolutionary nor can the cumulus of misery that accompanies tragedy suffocate him.""My respect for human beings is based, not on the colour of a man's skin nor authority he may wield, but purely on merit.""A good pen can also remind us of the happiest moments in our lives, bring noble ideas into our dens, our blood & our souls. It can turn tragedy into hope & victory."


Author Notes

Nelson Mandela (1918--2013) was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist, who served as the first democratically-elected President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. Mandela established the Nelson Mandela Foundation as his post-presidential office in 1999. It is a not-for-profit organization which has, since 2004, been transformed into an archive and trusted voice on his life and times. It carries out its mandate to promote Mandela's vision and work by convening dialogues and creating platforms for engagement around critical issues to promote social justice.

Sahm Venter is a former Associated Press reporter (who covered and was witness to Mandela's release from prison in 1990) and a longtime researcher. She has co-edited several previous books, including Notes to the Future: Words of Wisdom with Sello Hatang and Doug Abrams); 491 Days: Prisoner Number 1323/69 by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, with Swati Dlamini; and Something to Write Home About: Reflections from the Heart of History, with Claude Colart; and co-wrote Conversations with a Gentle Soul with the late anti-apartheid struggle hero, Ahmed Kathrada.

Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela was born in 1979 in Welkom, South Africa, close to the town of Brandfort to which her grandmother, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was banished by the apartheid regime. She works as a business developer and is a public speaker and a self-described serial entrepreneur. In 2017 she launched her luxury fashion range Swati by Roi Kaskara. She is the granddaughter of Nelson Mandela and Nomzamo Nobandla Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

The value of this epistolary trove isn't limited to scholars of the decades-long struggle against apartheid, though Venter's diligent collection and annotation is certainly tailored for research purposes. Drawn from Mandela's letters to family, friends, comrades, admirers, and even his own jailers, this dense and vivid archive goes from his 1962 incarceration on the infamous Robben Island to his 1990 release from Victor Verster Prison, paving the way for his election in 1994 as South Africa's first black president. Throughout, his insistence on correct legal procedure and unflinching advocacy for his beliefs demonstrates the conviction that marked Mandela as a leading statesman, even while behind bars. More personal correspondence, such as those mourning the death of his oldest son in his absence, reveal the high price the South African government exacted from him. Always thoughtful, Mandela is particularly eloquent when engaging his oppressors directly, as in a 1971 letter (originally in Afrikaans) to the commander of Robben Island: "Only a person armed with love for his fellow human beings, and who cares about others, will succeed where force and power will be applied in vain." Anyone seeking to understand one of the guiding lights of the antiapartheid fight will find these letters a vital resource. (July) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


New York Review of Books Review

THE TRIALS OF NINA MCCALL: Sex, Surveillance, and mcCalt the Decades-Long Government Plant to Imprison a "Promiscuous" Women, by Scott W. Stern. (Beacon, ? $28.95.) Stern's meticulous history - the first booklength account of an American government "social hygiene" campaign under which thousands of women were forcibly examined, quarantined and incarcerated - is a consistently surprising page-turner. THE BOUNCER, by David Gordon. (Mysterious Press, $26.) A goofy caper novel in the grand tradition of Donald E. Westlake, set among the international crime families of New York. DOPESICK: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America, by Beth Macy. (Little, Brown, $28.) Macy's harrowing account of the opioid epidemic in which hundreds of thousands have already died masterfully interlaces stories of communities in crisis with dark histories of corporate greed and regulatory indifference. AMITY AND PROSPERITY: One Family and the Fracturing of America, by Eliza Griswold. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.) This impassioned account of fracking's toll on a small town in Pennsylvania by Griswold, a poet and journalist, lays bare in novelistic detail the human and environmental costs of a practice abetted by greed and government negligence. SPINNING SILVER, by Naomi Növik. (Del Rey, $28.) In her stunning new novel, rich in both ideas and people, Növik gives classic fairy tales - particularly "Rumpelstiltskin" - a fresh, wholly original twist, with the vastness of Tolkien and the empathy and joy in daily life of Le Guin. FLORIDA, by Lauren Groff. (Riverhead, $27.) In the 11 dramatic tales that make up her second story collection, Groff's version of Florida comes with menace, but no less wonder. The author is a careful, sharp recorder of the natural world, and this is restorative fiction for these urgent times. THE PRISON LETTERS OF NELSON MANDELA, edited by Sahm Venter. (Liveright, $35.) This volume of 255 letters, both heartbreaking and inspiring, by the former South African president and civil rights activist, shows his evolution over the course of his long prison sentence into a leader of rare moral courage. CLOCK DANCE, by Anne Tyler. (Knopf, $26.95.) In her latest Baltimore-centric novel, Tyler plunges a staid Arizona retiree into the off-kilter lives of a single mother, her daughter and their rambunctious neighbors. THE HIDDEN STAR, by K. Sello Duiker. (Cassava Republic, $17.95; ages 10 and up.) This captivating posthumous novel is set in a dusty town outside Soweto, South Africa, where magic and danger lurk as a girl discovers a wish-granting stone. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web: nytimes.com/books


Library Journal Review

Compiled from various collections over ten years and edited by Venter (491 Days), this collection of 255 prison letters written by the late revolutionary and former president of South Africa provides a unique glimpse of Mandela during his 27-year incarceration, which he served at four different prisons. Context regarding the significance of these letters is provided throughout, including how prison authorities censored and regulated prisoner correspondence by controlling what words could be used and limiting the number of words written. Many of the letters found within this work never made it to the intended recipient owing to their being lost or thrown away, but Mandela made a point to record each letter, many word for word. Both intimate and diplomatic, these writings showcase Mandela's various roles as a husband, father, friend, and lawyer. Photographs, scans of letters, footnotes, and a glossary referencing individuals and events are found within the letters. VERDICT An important work for library collections and voracious readers of history.-David Miller, Farmville P.L., NC © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela
Forewordp. vii
Introductionp. ix
A Note on The Lettersp. xiii
Nelson Mandela's Prison Numbersp. xvii
Pretoria Local Prison, November 1962-May 1963p. 1
Robben Island Maximum Security Prison, May 1963-June 1963p. 9
Robben Island Maximum Security Prison, June 1964-March 1982p. 19
Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison, March 1982-August 1988p. 431
Tygerberg Hospital & Constantiaberg MediClinic, August-December 1988p. 503
Victor Verster Prison, December 1988-February 1990p. 511
Supplementary Informationp. 573
Appendix A Glossaryp. 574
Appendix B Prison Timelinep. 592
Appendix C Map of South Africa, c.1996p. 596
Endnotesp. 599
Letters and Collectionsp. 601
Acknowledgementsp. 605
Permissions Acknowledgementsp. 609
Indexp. 611