Nelson Mandela sat in a prison cell for 27 years, alone and separated from his family, with not much more to do than write—waves of words documenting his anguish that are now being released in a new memoir, Conversations With Myself. Some excerpts, as per the BBC:
- To wife Winnie Mandela, he wrote in 1969 that his main problem was "my waking up without you close to me, the passing of the day without my having seen you."
- To his daughters, aged 9 and 10, as both he and Winnie were imprisoned in 1969: "Now you will get no birthday or Christmas parties, no presents or new dresses no shoes or toys." Later: "Long may you live as orphans."
- A year later, he wrote Winnie that "I feel I have been soaked in gall, every part of me, my flesh, bloodstream, bone and soul, so bitter am I to be completely powerless to help you in the rough and fierce ordeals you are going through."
- Of not being allowed to go to his son's funeral, he wrote in his diary: "When I was first advised of my son's death I was shaken from top to bottom."
- Of his growing celebrity: "One issue that deeply worried me in prison was the false image I unwittingly projected to the outside world; of being regarded as a saint. I never was one, even on the basis of the earthly definition of a saint as a sinner who keeps trying."
- The strain in his marriage, which ended in 1996: "(Winnie) reminded me: 'I, not you, brought up these children whom you now prefer to me.' I was simply stunned."