The Independent (Kampala)

South Africa: The Real Mandela Revealed - Possibly

'In real life we deal, not with gods, but with ordinary humans like ourselves: men and women who are full of contradictions, who are stable and fickle, strong and weak, famous and infamous.' --Nelson Mandela

A Nobel Peace Winner and The first black President of South Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is one of the most inspiring and iconic figures of our age.

Released in 2010, Conversations With Myself is a powerful, well-written, beautiful insight of the man behind the legend. More a literary album than it is a book, Conversations With Myself is a collection of letters and transcripts. With excerpts taken from desk calendars, interviews, unpublished autobiographical notes and conversations that Nelson Mandela had through-out his 27 year term in prison, it gives an insight into his thoughts ,values, and morals that lead the way in which he continues to live out his life.

Mandela writes ".....the cell is an ideal place to learn to know yourself, to search realistically and regularly the process of your own mind and feelings" - from a letter to Winnie Mandela.

Conversations With Myself is a very humbling, very passionate and inspirational piece of work. It offers quotes and words of wisdom for anybody interested in politics, Africa, and love.

With a life that has been represented in countless publications, none has been able to answer the question: "But who is Nelson Mandela really? What does he really think?"

Conversations With Myself attempts to answer those questions by giving readers access to his personal archives.

With chances of meeting such a great man left to the world of dreams, Conversations With Myself offers the closest alternative. It offers a unique opportunity for readers to hear Mandela's own voice - direct, clear, and private.

It offers a chance to share some trying, painful and heartbreaking moments like the last time he saw his mother. In 1968, when his 76-year-old mother had made her way down from the rural Transkei on her own, to visit him on Robben Island, Mandela writes: "At the end of the visit I was able to watch her as she walked slowly towards the boat which would take her back to the mainland, and somehow the thought flashed across my mind that I had seen her for the last time".

He was right: she died several months later, and he was not allowed to attend her funeral, even under escort. Ten months later his eldest son, Thembi, was killed in a car accident. Mandela's letter of 13 July 1969 to the commanding officer of Robben Island prison, asking to be present at his son's graveside, makes heartbreaking reading. It was refused.

I would recommend this book not only to students of history or to enthusiasts of autobiography, but to anybody who has encountered difficult times and has felt like giving up. Nelson Mandela's heroic life is the ultimate lesson in staying true to who you are and what you believe in, and also to dignified perseverance.

Africa's very own!

To read this book really is to walk the steps of the "Long Walk To Freedom", to come closer to understanding Mandela's struggle and motives, to feeling his pain, and to experiencing his humility.

His international bestselling autobiography, "Long Walk To Freedom", was a book that challenged every human emotion, from fear and sorrow through to unadulterated joy. However, an autobiography is just that, reminiscence, even from a man who steadfastly diarised his time in captivity.

Conversations With Myself is an intimate journey from Mandela's first stirrings of political consciousness to his galvanising role on the world stage, illuminating a heroic life forged on the front lines of the struggle for freedom and justice.

Conversations With Myself is introduced with a foreword by US President Barack Obama who writes, "...I am reminded that even as he has become a legend, to know the man - Nelson Mandela - is to respect him even more".

Taking inspiration from one of the greatest books of all time - Marcus Aurelius's Meditations, Conversations With Myself, President Obama writes, "does the world an extraordinary service in giving us that picture of Mandela". A true inspiration. A must read !

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