Long Walk to Freedom, The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

  • Archita Tiwari
  • July 19, 2020

Content :

Nelson Mandela’s remarkable, and laudable life not only inspires us, but also it educates us. “Long Walk to Freedom” is an autobiography of statesman which was written in 1994 and it tells us about his ascend from an anti-apartheid activist and Robben Island-jailed terrorist, to ANC leader and a culture symbol. If we compare statesman, the one that from once being a prisoner under Apartheid went on to become the President of Republic of African country and thus the inspiration to many behind him, to an equally great inspirational icon from America, then it definitely would be Lincoln. Both of them are great emancipators and fathers of their nations; Mandela, like Lincoln, is trying to bring a democratic nation together from a region that has been divided by racism, regionalism, and violence. But, what Mandela tells us in his latest autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom is that the first character he played was that of Lincoln\'s assassin: reformist Booth, in an exceedingly play placed on by the Drama Society at the University College of Fort Hare, which was the only real university for Black South Africans at the time, where Mandela was a student within the 1940s. "My part was the smaller one," Mandela describes, "though i won’t to be the engine of the play\'s moral, which was that men who take great risks often suffer great consequences."

Mandela paints a picture of the great risk and enormous consequences he took with all the frustration, fear, and isolation that Mandela experienced as an African National Congress leader and activist within the 1950s, as a pacesetter of Spear of the state, an underground branch of the ANC, within the first 1960s, and as a captive from 1962 to 1990 (from age 44 to age of 71). The book demonstrates how Mandela’s own experiences of life teach great moral lessons as any play. The book also tells us about how enduring, determined, attentive, remote and cynical man Mandela was even after a period of long imprisonment he had to travel through.

Mandela remembers the Dickensian reversals that shaped his childhood and childhood with a deprecating humor on himself. Mandel was, “Groomed, like my father’s before me, to counsel the rulers of the tribe” from being the son of an adviser to the chief of the Thembu tribe within the Transkei.  But unfortunately his family had to maneuver on with a simple, cruel life in another village thanks to his father, who once denied a district white magistrate\'s authority during a tribal dispute. Mandela says he then, "lost both his fortune and his title". 

His return to Thembu royal household was only his father died and he had to become a virtual son to the king of Thembu. The King sent him to personal school and boarding college where he describes himself to be something of a country “yokel”. When Mandela was 23 he wanted to escape an arranged marriage which he describes as, "she was undoubtedly no more desperate to be burdened with me than I with her", and also he was sent off from Fort Hare because of his involvement with the students protest regarding conditions at the varsity, Mandela moved to Johannesburg. Walter Sisulu who was a real factor finally found him a bit of law clerk when he had had enough of the Dickensian misadventures. In 1944 the Youth League of the African National Congress was formed by Mandela with the help of Sisulu et al. which acted because the primary stepping stone towards risk and consequences. Mandela finely explains this period as, "I can\'t stick point a quick once I became politicized...I had no revelation, no solitary disclosure, no critical point in time, however a mellow amassing of thousand insults, one thousand outrages, 1000 unremembered minutes created in me a displeasure, a defiance, a craving to battle the framework that detained my kin. There was no specific day on which I stated, from consequently i\'ll dedicate myself to the freedom of my kin; rather I just wound up doing as such, and can not do something else.

The racist gradations of Apartheid and Pass Laws weren\'t the only ones to imprison Mandela but it absolutely was also Pollsmoor Prison and Robben Island. Mandela’s half narrative deals with now he spent in prison and also about the time when he was released. Mandela has nothing to present to those who might anticipate details about the politicking and negotiations that transpire then release, between himself, then-prime minister F.W. de Klerk, Inkatha political movement leader Mongosuthu Buthelezi, and others-negotiations that led to the April 27,1994 elections that made Mandela president of a transitional "government of national unity." it\'s presumed to be in several parts because thorough explanation on these events would have an impact on his continuing work; Mandela is efficient in his treatment of them. as an example, how he and thus the ANC prevented national discord and violence within the wake of 1992 statements by de Klerk, "that if the ANC made the country ungovernable, the govt. is also forced to give some thought to some unpleasant options," and thus the September 1992 shootings of twenty-nine ANC marchers in Bisho, the capital of the Ciskei homeland, Mandela notes only that, "I warned Mr. de Klerk that any anti-democratic actions would have serious repercussions [and that]...I met with [him] so on search out basis and avoid another tragedy like Bisho...and on September 26, Mr. de Klerk which i met for an official summit." The submit proved to be important because it laid the underside for agreements that resulted in first all- race democratic elections in Republic of South Africa.

A cautious practicality is present in his description of his work with Dr. Klerk. He describes it as "I was often asked how I could accept the [1993 Nobel Peace Prize] jointly with Mr. de Klerk after I had criticized him so severely. Although i\'d not take back my criticisms, I could say that he had made a real and indisputable contribution to the social process. I never sought to undermine Mr. de Klerk, for the sensible reason that the weaker he was, the weaker the negotiations process. to form peace with an enemy one must work thereupon enemy which enemy becomes one\'s partner." A same nature seems to instill Mandela\'s ambivalence toward communism and also the alliance between the party and therefore the ANC. In describing a 1989 encounter between himself and a government "secret negotiating committee" that preceded his release, Mandela recalls how he recognized to them that, "the Communist Party and therefore the ANC were separate and distinct organizations that shared the identical short-term objectives, the overthrow of racial oppression and also the birth of a nonracial Republic of South Africa, but that our long-term interests weren\'t the identical." Elsewhere, Mandela recalls that while during the 1950s he "questioned the philosophical and practical under pinnings of Marxism [and] was first and foremost an African nationalist fighting for our emancipation from minority rule... i used to be prepared to use whatever means to hurry up the erasure of human prejudice and therefore the end of chauvinistic and violent nationalism. I didn\'t must become a Communist so as to figure with them." Mandela notes that, "the cynical have always suggested that the Communists were using us. But who is to mention that we weren\'t using them?”  

This capacity for wary alliance or agreement, and for forging unexpected trust between mutually suspicious parties, is clear not only in Mandela\'s account of his national politicking, but of his life as a prisoner. Describing a pre-trial detention in 1960, Mandela notes that he and a guard, "had a form of gentleman\'s code between us," when the guard accompanied Mandela on furloughs to Johannesburg from Pretoria he says: "I wouldn\'t try and escape and thereby get him into trouble, while he permitted me a degree of freedom." Indeed, what\'s striking about the narrative is how, while Mandela\'s period of imprisonment is for outsiders an enormous blank and interruption within the story of his life, for Mandela it seems to own become a continuation and intensification of his work outside prison walls. "There was no point in having any permanent enemy among the warders," he notes, "It was ANC policy to do to coach all people, even our enemies: we believed that every one men, even prison service warders, were capable of change, and that we did our utmost to undertake to sway them." Mandela\'s account of life at Robben Island (and after 1981 at the milder Pollsmoor Prison) includes protests and organization by prisoners, hunger strikes, go-slow strikes, demands for release, for books, for better treatment and food, and therefore the observant weighing of the characters and intentions of his captors and fellow-prisoners. (To hear him dissect the question of whether a prisoner should devour a sandwich dropped for him by a guard is to listen to a marvelously acute connoisseur of the psychology of power and politics.) Of his arrival at Robben Island prison, Mandela observes, "[it] was without question the tough est most iron-fisted outpost within the South African penal system...its isolation made it not simply another prison, but a world of its own, far far from the one we had come from. The joyousness with which we had left Pretoria had been snuffed out by its stern atmosphere; we were face-to-face-with the belief that our life would be unredeemable grim. [But] my dismay was quickly replaced by a way that a replacement and different fight had begun." Of his first day at Robben Island, Mandela recalls how, to the bewilderment of his guards, he would only walk, "at a stately pace," when told to run: "We had to indicate them that we weren\'t everyday criminals but political prisoners being punished for our beliefs." The account of much of the amount on Robben Island, particularly of what Mandela describes as a failed 1969 plot by an agent of BOSS, South Africa\'s secret intelligence service, to assassinate Mandela in an exceedingly phony escape attempt, is chilling. The contrast between the elegance of Mandela\'s language and also the brutishness of much of his time there, spent breaking rocks or gathering seaweed, is telling.

Pervading that language and also the book is an understated and surprising sense of humor, a sensibility that tends toward the gently ironic. Of his arrest in 1962 (after a period of underground activism and evasion of authorities that earned him the nickname "the Black Pimpernel"), Mandela notes that, "at least thereon night-August 5, 1962-1 didn\'t need to worry about whether the police would find me. They already had." After a devastating description of a period of confinement, Mandela nevertheless notes that he was, "on the verge of initiating conversations with a cockroach." Of the instant in March of 1960 when Mandela was released for one minute from detention so he can be formally re-arrested under the stricter terms of the State of Emergency that followed the Sharpeville massacre, Mandela writes, "I failed to know whether to laugh or despair."

It\'s through such dry humor that we get a way of the spirit of the author who otherwise holds the reader at distance. Rarely are we invited to pay attention in on Mandela\'s thoughts at moments of tragedy and triumph. When his sentence to Rodden Island is pronounced, Mandela recounts how he felt about the verdicts given his co-defendants, not about his own. When Mandela describes the deaths of Walter Sisulu and other friends and allies, he dwells not on his own feelings but pays lengthy tribute to the deceased.

It is through almost incidental details that we understand the nice consequences Mandela seems to possess experienced for the risks that he took. The effect of Mandela\'s separation from his family is conveyed through the recollection of his son who had "taken comfort," in wearing his, "too-often distant" father\'s suit jacket, which reached the boy\'s knees, during Mandela\'s long absences. The effect of Mandela\'s separation from society during his imprisonment (and of his reemergence into society) is conveyed within the recollection of a Pollsmoor law officer tying Mandela\'s tie for him in preparation for a gathering with then-president PW Botha, when Mandela realizes that after 26 years in prison uniforms, he has forgotten a way to tie a Windsor knot: "The deputy commander... stood back to admire his handiwork. \'Much better\' he said."

Richard Stengel, who worked with Mandela on the autobiography, has observed that, "Mandela is usually lonely, not for lack of company, except for intimacy." The role that descended upon Mandela during his trials within the 1950s and 60s as (in Mandela\'s words) "representative of the good ideals of freedom, fairness, and democracy in a very society that dishonored those virtues/\' and therefore the task of nonviolence while a prisoner, of hiding his uncertainties, "behind a mask of boldness," has, in Stengel\'s interpretation, required Mandela to "build a wall around himself." Stengel recalls that, "I interviewed number of [Mandela’s] colleagues with whom he spent decades in prison, and while they loved and revered him, they confessed that they failed to feel like they really knew him." this is often true of Mandela\'s autobiography as well: it\'s the maximum amount, if less, about Mandela\'s work, his strategies, his plans, his observations about others, than it\'s about himself. it\'s about the continuing, enduring, walk to freedom the maximum amount because it is about the walker. The walk continues. This autobiography is in fact still incomplete: Mandela continues to write down and shape the story of South Africa and of his own life. The solutions to several of their dilemmas, like the role and relations of the ANC with other organizations, the ad dressing of questions of education, poverty, continuing violence and corruption in South Africa, and therefore the direction the state will take during and after his presidency, have yet to be discovered and written. Nevertheless, Long Walk to Freedom offers much to those that seek to know the person and his dilemmas. During later years on Robben Island, Mandela was permitted to read books and novels (although anything with the words "red" or "war" in its title was forbidden). "I recall especially John Steinbeck\'s Grapes of Wrath, during which I found many similarities between the plight of the migrant workers in this novel and our own laborers and farm workers, [and] one book that I returned to several times was Tolstoy\'s great work, War and Peace. For some way of describing what Long Walk to Freedom offers people who seek to know the New African country and President Mandela himself, we would consult those two authors: "A book is sort of a man," Steinbeck once observed, "clever and dull, brave and cowardly...." Few would call Mandela neither dull nor cowardly- indeed it\'s by the alternative qualities that he\'s perhaps most frequently described. But the book does seem to be just like the man in its dog goodness and ease, within the dignity and discipline of its language, within the understated treatment of the fun and pains of experience, and in its preference for the descriptive and factual over the rhetorical. The book, just like the man it describes, seems to be one among action over of drama. In describing General Kutuzov, a personality in Tolstoy\'s War and Peace, Mandela notes that he, "defeated Napoleon precisely because he wasn\'t swayed by the ephemeral and superficial values of the court, and made his decisions supported a visceral understanding of his men and his people. It jogged my memory another time that to really lead one\'s people one must also truly know them." To the extent that it confirms and strengthens our understanding of Mandela\'s endurance, dignity, and reserve, that it reveals Mandela\'s intense awareness of his own symbolic role, and that, round the edges of the mask, it reveals a persistent optimism and a gently ironic sense of humor, Long Walk to Freedom enables people to approach an understanding of Mandela that matches this leader\'s understanding of individuals.