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April 23, 2014

Nadine Gordimer: The Great Post-Mandela Disillusion

No TimeBy Michael Skafidas

Nadine Gordimer, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991, is the leading lady of letters in South Africa. Through her fiction and non-fiction writings she has captured the despair and the triumph of a country that went all the way from the ignominy of apartheid to the heights of Nelson Mandela’s presidency.

In this conversation, Gordimer speaks with Michael Skafidas for the WorldPost about the disillusion of post-Mandela South Africa, her distrust of the digital era and her decision to retire from writing fiction.

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December 11, 2013

SA’s literary giants offer diverse views on Mandela

JM Coetzee

JM Coetzee

By Siyabonga Sithole

South African Nobel laureates Nadine Gordimer and JM Coetzee, as well as acclaimed author Zakes Mda, have all written high-profile reflections on Nelson Mandela this week.

The most talked about is The Contradictions of Mandela, an opinion piece by Mda in the New York Times.

Mda recalls Mandela as a fiery, disciplined young lawyer who would visit his family home.

“I remember Nelson Mandela. No, not the universally adored elder statesman who successfully resisted the megalomania that comes with deification and who died Thursday at age 95, but the young lawyer who used to sit in my parents’ living room until the early hours of the morning, debating African nationalism with my father, Ashby Peter Mda.”

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December 6, 2013

Rest in peace, Madiba. Thank you for everything.

706x410q70kevin on MadibaFifty years ago Martin Luther King called out in hope, “Let freedom ring”. “Freedom” answered his call by walking out of Victor Verster Prison 27 years later – and the world embraced the human embodiment of that elusive concept in Nelson Mandela. The body that nurtured the concept is no more, and now the world again cries out, “Let freedom ring”, this time in tribute. Hamba kahle, Tata Madiba, your long walk is done. By KEVIN BLOOM.

On the morning of Sunday 11 July 2010, the date of the final match of the Fifa World Cup, the BBC broke the news that the international football body had been placing “intense pressure” on 91-year-old Nelson Mandela to attend the closing ceremony scheduled for later that day at Soccer City. According to the report, Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela had warned that the outing would be “strenuous” for a man of his grandfather’s age, and urged that the decision be made in conjunction with his medical team. In the event, Fifa was granted its wish – on a bitterly cold Johannesburg evening, the global icon was driven around the pitch in a golf cart, from where he waved to the capacity crowd and the entire world. It would be his last major public appearance.

Rolihlahla Nelson Dalibunga Mandela died at 95 on Thursday 05 December 2013.

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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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June 26, 2013

5 best books by Nelson Mandela

longBy Casey Lee

In the “Speech from the Dock” Nelson Mandela stated, “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Mandela’s life can only be described as exceptional: as an anti-apartheid revolutionary, South African president from 1994 to 1999, and 1993 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Let us take a moment to appreciate – through his books – Nelson Mandela, and everything he has stood for and achieved.


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January 11, 2012

Paton’s Beloved Country

Alan Paton (1903 - 1988)

On this day in 1903 novelist and reformer Alan Paton was born in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa. At Paton’s death in 1988, Nelson Mandela said that his first and most famous novel, Cry, the Beloved Country, was “a monument to the future”; a decade later Paton’s widow would leave for England, glad that her husband was not there “to see what has happened to his beloved country.”

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October 30, 2011

Alexandra Fuller’s top 10 African memoirs

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From JM Coetzee to Nelson Mandela, the author chooses her favourite ‘performances of courage and honesty’ that have come out of the continent.

“The memoirs that have come out of Africa are sometimes startlingly beautiful, often urgent, and essentially life-affirming, but they are all performances of courage and honesty. Far from the tell-all confessionals more usual in western memoirs, the African memoir lays bare the bones of what it is to be a child, survivor, or perpetrator of oppression and conflict.

“What is often shocking, but very effective, is the humour evident in so many of these works, laughter being an essential survival technique for so many Africans (and of her writers). The act of writing is also a defiant way of asserting, “I was born. I am here. I will remain.” In places of chronic instability, the memoir is an anchor of words to an experience and place and a way to bear witness; to expose and perhaps even explain the atrocities of war, racism, tribalism and cronyism. Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, and Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, my own memoirs of Africa, are written from a white African point of view, but explore the ways in which the land possesses all of us who love it – regardless of ethnicity – and the ways in which laughter can make palatable life’s unendurable losses.”

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July 17, 2011

The battle for Brand Mandela

Filed under: Authors — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 7:24 am

The former South African president Nelson Mandela is 93 on Monday – and exploiters are already circling the ageing icon.

By Tim Butcher

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In a remote corner of the website run by those who look after Nelson Mandela’s affairs is a page that conveys perfectly the acute concern over the legacy of the ageing South African icon. The page is entitled “Fraudulent Activity”.

Beloved by so many, beatified by some, the reality is that there are those who seek to profit fraudulently from association with the man who transcended politics to become a global symbol of decency. And as his passing draws nearer – he turns 93 on Monday, obliged by frailty to withdraw largely from public life – the fear is that exploiters are circling like hyenas around an elderly lion.

Mandela’s advisors have long sought to protect his name. Ten years ago his then lawyer, Ismail Ayob, forced the closure of a Cape Town fast food shop newly opened under the tacky name of “Nelson’s Chicken and Gravy Land”, with a menu offering the Nelson Liberation family meal.

That same lawyer, ironically enough, later resigned as a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Trust after being accused of personally profiting from the sale of memorabilia including artworks bearing Mr Mandela’s signature. Mr Ayob denied the allegations but the dispute with a once trusted member of Mr Mandela’s inner circle was bloody and bitter.

Even those involved in uplifting parts of the Mandela narrative have not been spared. Mr Mandela famously invited former guards from his time as a political prisoner of the apartheid regime to attend his inauguration as president in 1994 when minority rule had finally been defeated. More than an act of forgiveness, it was a commitment to the new South Africa, one that is inclusive, seeing beyond ranking by colour.

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January 26, 2011

Best African books of 2010

Africa’s best books of 2010 including Nelson Mandela’s Conversations with Myself and a biography of Nigerian poet Christopher Okigbo, plus what books to look out for in 2011.

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December 23, 2010

SA’s best reads of 2010

Selected by employees and critics at The Times, and compiled by Andrew Donaldson

IN A STRANGE ROOM, Damon Galgut (Atlantic)

The Times of London described it as “absolutely brilliant”. Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, Galgut’s intense and acclaimed triptych – a collection, if you will, of three novellas – has drawn the inevitable comparisons with JM Coetzee, but Galgut’s really is a unique and original voice in South African fiction. In the stories here, a young man embarks upon a series of journeys, through Greece, India and Africa, in a search for love, identity and home.

CONVERSATIONS WITH MYSELF, Nelson Mandela (Macmillan)

Gathered from unpublished writings, diary entries and correspondence in a seemingly raw and unmediated manner, Conversations gave us the most moving and intimate portrait of the former president. Certainly, it refreshed parts that A Long Walk to Freedom failed to reach. Though Mandela took great care to mask his emotions and feelings, his letters to his wife and children reveal a loneliness and isolation that is utterly heartbreaking.

TELLING TIMES: WRITING AND LIVING, 1950 – 2010, Nadine Gordimer (Bloomsbury)

A companion of sorts to Life Times, an anthology of her best short fiction, this hefty volume gathers up a half-century of non-fiction and reveals Gordimer’s life as a moral activist, political visionary and literary icon. The range of this book is staggering, and stretches back to the dying days of colonial rule to the present-day conflicts of HIV/Aids, xenophobia and globalisation. Throughout all this, of course, was the scourge of racism and apartheid, and it is Gordimer’s brave and commendable engagement with the Nationalist government and the order it sought to impose upon us that particularly enthrall.

SUMMERTIME, JM Coetzee (Vintage)

Completing the trilogy of “memoirs” that began with Boy and Youth, Summertime is a story about a young biographer working on a book about a dead writer, John Coetzee, by focusing on the 1970s when the awkward and bookish Coetzee was finding his feet as a writer. So the biographer interviews a married woman with whom he had an affair, a favourite cousin, a dancer whose daughter was taught English by Coetzee, as well as other colleagues and friends. Praised as edgy, black, remorselessly human, Summertime was also humorous and offbeat, even wacky a portrait of the artist as outsider….read more

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