Letters Show Jailed Mandela's Anguish

Leader's writings released in new memoir
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 10, 2010 11:45 AM CDT
In this Jan. 2007 file photo, former South African President Nelson Mandela attends the Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg.   (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)
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(Newser) – 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."

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