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Culture & Religion

Mandela Before Sainthood

‘Young Mandel’ is a portrait that is likely to rankle some but Mandela is in no need of more hagiography and Smith’s account makes the hero more fully human.

The Mandela who emerges from Smith’s complex portrait — pieced together from diaries, oral histories, and dozens of interviews with his family and surviving members of the ANC inner circle around Mandela — combines greatness with pettiness, compassion with coldness, altruism with selfishness. Smith shows again and again that Mandela’s deepening commitment to the anti-apartheid struggle damaged those closest to him, and, in the end, led him to accept almost casually the role of martyr, despite the terrible consequences for nearly everyone in his orbit.


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