Mandela: A Critical Life

Mandela: A Critical Life

by Tom Lodge
     
 

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Nelson Mandela, the first African politician to acquire a world following, remains in the 21st century an iconic figure. But what are the sources of his almost mythic appeal? And to what extent did Mandela self-consciously create the status of political hero that he now enjoys? This new and highly revealing biography examines these questions in detail for the first…  See more details below

Overview

Nelson Mandela, the first African politician to acquire a world following, remains in the 21st century an iconic figure. But what are the sources of his almost mythic appeal? And to what extent did Mandela self-consciously create the status of political hero that he now enjoys? This new and highly revealing biography examines these questions in detail for the first time. Drawing on a range of original sources, it presents a host of fresh insights about the shaping of Mandela's personality and public persona, from his childhood days and early activism, through his long years of imprisonment, to his presidency of the new South Africa. Throughout, Lodge emphasizes the crucial interplay between Mandela's public career and his personal or private world, showing how his heroic status was a product both of his leading position within the anti-apartheid movement and his own deliberate efforts to supply a form of quasi-messianic leadership for that movement. And as Lodge shows, Mandela's huge international appeal is a compelling and unusual cocktail. Of the sacred and the secular. Of traditional African values and global media savvy. And of human vulnerablilty, interwoven with the grand narrrative of liberation.

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Editorial Reviews

Glenn Frankel
Tom Lodge's Mandela: A Critical Life is an attempt to rescue the real man -- virtues and blemishes alike -- from the frozen wasteland of sainthood. Lodge is a political scientist who has spent his professional life rigorously and fearlessly charting the complex and treacherous crosscurrents of South African political life, from the apartheid era to the age of black rule. While he is a white liberal with enormous personal sympathy for the cause of black liberation, he has never hesitated to write critically and analytically about black politics and politicians.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Nelson Mandela is perhaps the world's most revered living political figure for his role in transforming South Africa into a true democracy. In this illuminating bio, University of Limerick professor Lodge (Politics in South Africa) shows how Mandela's struggle for equality brought him to prominence. Though Mandela is hardly lacking biographers, Lodge makes an important contribution with his argument that Mandela's appeal rests on his ability to personify his political beliefs. Mandela's politics, which emphasize a mix of authority, empathy and respect for all people, are mirrored by his actions and behavior toward everyone he's come in contact with, thereby allowing his personal grace and dignity to be a political gesture. According to Lodge, Mandela's magnanimity serves as a model for a new kind of citizenship, one that embraces difference and the messiness of democracy without sacrificing the gentlemanly restraint Mandela associated with English political institutions. Lodge is careful to give Mandela an assertive role in this process, showing how he cultivated his own life story and his status as a martyr for justice in order to hasten the coming of democracy to his country. Vivid descriptions of the daily horrors of apartheid and the men and women around Mandela, such as his ex-wife Winnie and the troubled F.W. de Klerk, reveal the complicated world that Mandela ultimately and triumphantly managed to change. 17 b&w photos not seen by PW. (Sept. 30) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
Lodge, a well-regarded longtime observer of South African politics, has written a splendid biography of South Africa's first democratic president. Nelson Mandela's life has been too well documented, not least in his own comprehensive autobiography, for Lodge's consistently readable account to reveal many previously unknown anecdotes. Instead of trying to unearth new details, Lodge focuses on Mandela's roots and education in order to explain his subsequent approach to politics as leader of the African National Congress. Lodge points to a youth in the Thembu aristocracy in Transkei, an Anglophile education in Methodist schools, and training as a lawyer to explain Mandela's sense of personal destiny, attachment to British-style democratic institutions, and ability to bridge his country's political divides. He shows how a combination of self-conscious charisma, graceful manners, and a deeply ingrained sense of political tolerance proved key to his effectiveness as a leader of the transition. Mandela's personal assets of a mythical stature within the ANC and the grudging respect of even the most intractable Afrikaner conservatives were based on skills and attitudes cultivated from childhood. Lodge avoids hagiography, notably in a final chapter that offers a measured and not uncritical assessment of Mandela's presidency, while making a compelling case for the man's historical importance.
Library Journal
Lodge has written a great biography. Not only has he consulted earlier studies of Mandela, as well as Mandela's own Long Walk to Freedom, but he has delved into diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, and other sources to write a thorough, engaging, and exemplary history of one of the world's great leaders. Lodge details the early years of the South African statesman, showing how his upbringing instilled in him the civility, pride, compassion, and honor he revealed throughout his public life and during his imprisonment from 1962 to1990. As Lodge demonstrates, Mandela views his worldly, heroic status with ambivalence (he is most at ease with children present), and his love for former wife Winnie Mandela, from whom he separated in 1992, evidently endures to this day. Lodge's definitive study examines the genesis of Mandela's public and private character and credos as well as his mythic effect upon African and 20th-century history. The book, which includes maps, photos (not seen), a chronology, and an abbreviations list, has a literate style that makes it suitable for academic as well as all public libraries. Highly recommended.-James Thorsen, Madison Cty. Schs., Weaverville, NC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"A fascinating, indeed riveting, and plausible as well as persuasive examination of why Nelson Mandela should have acquired a world following and can remain as he does an iconic figure even in the 21st century. It is certain to provoke much heated debate."—Desmond Tutu

"Unquestionably the most analytically incisive and discerning of the Nelson Mandela biographies."—Bill Nasson, University of Cape Town

"Illuminating.... An important contribution.... Vivid descriptions of the daily horrors of apartheid and the men and women around Mandela, such as his ex-wife Winnie and the troubled F.W. de Klerk, reveal the complicated world that Mandela ultimately and triumphantly managed to change."—Publishers Weekly

"Authoritative and fair-minded...deserves to be read widely."— Adam Roberts, The Economist

"Mandela may raise a few eyebrows for its human portrayal and occasional gentle criticism of a man whom many regard as a secular saint.... Lodge reminds us that this moral giant is also human."—Washington Post

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780191578762
Publisher:
OUP Oxford
Publication date:
07/26/2007
Series:
A Critical Life
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
18 MB
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Meet the Author

Tom Lodge was a member of the Department of Political Studies at the University of Witwatersrand between 1978 and 2005. He is now Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Limerick University in Ireland. He has also worked in the United States as Director of the Africa Program at the Social Science Research Council. He is the author of five other books on South African politics, including an authoritative history text on the post-Second World War history of black resistance.

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