Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book Review: Mandela by Peter Hain

Author Peter Hain grew up in South Africa, born to anti-Apartheid parents, who were banned from the country and had to flee to England when Hain was still a young boy.  He continued the struggle in England, and he has written numerous books on South Africa and Apartheid. 
One year after visiting South Africa for the first time, I've finally read the book I picked up there: Mandela by Peter Hain, published in 2010. (The book is on my Mount TBR reading challenge list.)
It's an extremely well written biography, and on the same time it's a book that provides invaluable information on the culture, history and politics of Nelson Mandela's South Africa .
I won't even try to make a blog post about this amazing man, this highly educated and sophisticated man who spent his life fighting against injustice and segregation. I couldn't, I wouldn't know where to start and what to leave out.  But, I'll say this: What amazes me the most about this man, is not his career or the way he was able to sustain  27 year of imprisonment and then become the president of his nation.   No, what makes me admire him the most,  is how he was able to forgive those who tortured and kept him locked up, those who suppressed and killed his people. He learned the Afrikaans language, the language spoken by a large group of the white population in South Africa, he spent a lot of time in jail reading their literature, their poetry, their history.  He wanted to understand them, and he was able to understand them and also forgive them.  When he became president, or, in fact years before, he decided that the new South Africa had to be built on the spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness, not the spirit of revenge. He acknowledged that they were all South Africans, no matter the color or mother language, and he truly understood that the country needed them all.
He was able to gain the trust and respect from not only the black South Africans, but also from the white minority, as they fully understood what a grand man he truly is. 
Well, all this is wonderfully portrayed in this book, and even though I well remember the days of "Free Nelson Mandela" and the moment he was released from prison, it's almost like I never got any of it, not until now. When I read about him taking the wows as South Africa's president, well, I cried. 
And, I'm happy that I got to see several of the now historic places last year, from Mandela's own house in Soweto, to the former prison in Johannesburg, now South Africa's Constitutional Court and the new Freedom Park in Pretoria, built to honor South Africans of all races and of all times. 
Peter Hain should continue his work, write and talk, because knowledge has to be nurtured in this noisy, superficial world, and history has to be continously retold to the new generations, so that we learn from it and move on in a better direction. 

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