Readersforum's Blog

June 27, 2013

The reader on Robben Island

nilanjana_s_royBy Nilanjana S Roy

The prison rules on Robben Island allowed the incarcerated to study, with some caveats. Their most famous prisoner, Nelson Mandela, meant to continue reading, no matter how small his cell.

The Robben Island library was limited, though prisoners could ask for books to study. Mr Mandela wrote in his autobiography, “We had access to many unremembered mysteries and detective novels and all the works of Daphne du Maurier, but little more.”

Political books were off limits, especially if they had “red” or “war” in the title. South Africa’s censors, more literal than literary, would not allow “Little Red Riding Hood” or The War of the Worlds into the prison library.

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