Heartbreaking and inspiring ... This book confronts readers with the most direct evidence yet of Mandela’s intellectual evolution into one of the great moral heroes of our time ... With words as his only ammunition, Mandela fought his case patiently, on lined paper, his eloquence inseparable from his rectitude.
Nelson Mandela’s long, thoughtful letters, written during his 27 years in prison, display an unwavering certainty that change would prevail ... Even in the knowledge that he was often writing into darkness, he kept up that most reasonable and patient of voices – rarely acknowledging anger, even less despair ... In his letters he is at pains to inhabit his roles as father and husband and son and uncle and friend, just as surely as if he were a free man ... Mandela’s written rhetoric was so seductive, even he was in thrall to it.
These letters were a lifeline ... Sahm Venter's collection of Mandela’s prison letters, which has taken almost ten years to collate, is inspiring, heartbreaking, funny and occasionally dull. It enriches rather than transforms our understanding of one of the world’s most hallowed statesmen, who became South Africa’s first democratically elected president in 1994 ... The letters, presented chronologically, are interspersed with 'reader-friendly' explanations and footnotes to remind us who is who in the cast of cousins, kings, friends and family known by a raft of nicknames. At its best, this is a book of Nelson Mandela’s wisdom; a tribute to positive thinking. Yet at 600 pages, nearly as long as his Long Walk to Freedom, it is a formidable read and probably best enjoyed, as Venter suggests, by dipping in and out many times.
The letters feel eerily resonant in 2018 ... The greatest strength of this collection is its ability to renew hope at a time when many of us sorely need it ... even the most mundane letters of Nelson Mandela are worth reading, if only to find your way to those that are extraordinary. The collection affirms that Mandela was not only a brilliant political tactician and legal mind, but also an exquisite writer. However, what ultimately makes this collection unforgettable is not the language he uses, but the ideals that emerge ... Mandela’s love for his family, his country, and equality shine through in this collection. But it is his commitment to finding the light in the darkest of circumstances and the dark walls of a prison cell that carries this book.
The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela, edited by Sahm Venter, a seasoned researcher who worked with Mandela on previous books, helps explain what happened in between ... Venter has done an excellent job of sifting through the South African national archives.
Today’s familiar figure, enormously self-controlled, morally towering, and powerfully eloquent—the man who would ultimately drive South Africa’s peaceful transition to full democracy—was largely shaped during his decades of confinement ... This is the picture that emerges with remarkable force from The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela ... The short introduction and brief and discreet editors’ notes that appear sporadically in The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela are full of background and insights that reveal not only new tactics necessarily adapted to prison but also the emergence of a different kind of leader, at once more deft and more courageous than he had been before. Some of the most remarkable letters concern Mandela’s earliest days of imprisonment, and these make clear that although his full transformation took decades, it began almost immediately.
[The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela] articulate his thinking and feelings in real time, they provide a new lens to view his personal and political growth. Most of all, they help explain how Mandela survived his grueling incarceration with his passions and integrity intact.
[A] necessary, intimate portrait of the great leader. The man who emerges is warm and intelligent and a savvy, persuasive, and strategic thinker. During his life, Mandela was a loving husband and father, a devotee of the ANC's struggle, and capable of interacting with prominent statesmen and the ANC's rank and file. He was not above flattery or hard-nosed steeliness toward his captors as suited his needs, and he was always yearning for freedom, not only―or even primarily―for himself, but rather for his people, a goal that is the constant theme of this collection and was the consuming vision of his entire time as a prisoner. Venter adds tremendous value with his annotations and introductions to the work as a whole and to the book's various sections ... A valuable contribution to our understanding of one of history's most vital figures.
The capacity of correspondence, the variety of the relationships it bridges and outlines, and so the scope of the text and its portrait of imprisonment... from the intimacy of a family life, of loss and close grief, to the decisions taken, articulated and maintained to eradicate apartheid – each can be felt in readings and comment by Dlamini-Mandela and Venter.