In This Review

By Martin Meredith
PublicAffairs, 2010, 688 pp

Meredith has updated his excellent 1997 biography of Nelson Mandela, and the new material expresses many of the same deep misgivings about the evolution of the country since Mandela's retirement from politics in 1999. At the same time, Mandela's story serves as a reminder of the incredible political distance the country has covered over the course of the last several decades. This edition retains the first edition's many qualities, such as the expertly drawn picture of Mandela's early forays into nationalist politics and his many years in prison, but the new material is quite compelling, too. The book's focus is decidedly biographical, with more pages devoted to Mandela's fraught relationship with his wife than to the details of the negotiations that brought about majority rule. Nonetheless, Meredith uses telling detail to deliver a troubling portrait of former President Thabo Mbeki and the ANC leadership's internal dynamics.