Let’s get one thing out of the way. Nelson Mandela is a great man. His compassion, his tolerance, his capacity for forgiveness and his wisdom broke a political logjam that threatened to engulf southern Africa and enabled him to preside over South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy. Others, all extraordinary in their own right, played invaluable roles: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President F W de Klerk, Walter Sisulu, Joe Slovo, Oliver Tambo, Thabo Mbeki. Without Mandela’s magisterial, benign authority, however, South Africa would have remained at war with itself and with its neighbours.
But that is no reason to set aside doubts and misgivings about this fascinating albeit flawed volume, packed with titbits, embedded in material that should be essential to the specialist reader. The problem is that these titbits, intriguing though they are, hardly warrant the purchase of this 450-page