A Long Walk to Freedom: initial thoughts

I’ve just picked up Nelson Mandela’s memoirs, A Long Walk to Freedom, and want to record a few quick thoughts.

The first thing I noticed was the remarkable level of detail in his childhood recollections. The Xhosa words and names he uses in the first few chapters are difficult for me to pronounce, but I am making an effort to pronounce them (phonetically as I read them) at least, rather than skim them for sight recognition.

I am also enjoying the humility and humour with which he reflected on some of his seemingly “rash” decisions as a very young student, before his time with the ANC. I am impressed at his ability to convey encouragement and a sense of duty to the writer while writing in an autobiographical style. His work ethic and energy are astounding: working full-time as an attorney (representing particularly difficult cases! advocating for the rights of Africans), while simultaneously guiding the ANC and (initially) studying part-time.

I am also fascinated by learning about Mandela’s early political influences. His adoptive father’s guidance towards strong but conservative self-government, the dogged belief in personal achievement of some of the white South African lawyers for whom he articled, and the radicalism of his early ANC contacts. I was also impressed with the breadth of his associates. He mentions the connections he made while studying at Fort Hare University, which spanned across the “colour bar” and across the range of the political spectrum. A feat fantastically rare in 1930s-1940s South Africa, but, in all honesty, something that is still relatively rare today.

Enjoying it immensely so far. I can, with full confidence, recommend pages 1 – 200.

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