The critics on Young Mandela

The Daily Telegraph

Much has been written about Nelson Mandela’s rise from freedom-fighting prisoner to the first black president of liberated South Africa. But little has been dedicated to his formative years. Through detailed interviews with Mandela and his family and associates, Smith provides a vivid and sometimes controversial account of Mandela’s life until his jailing at Robben Island at age 45. Smith charts Mandela’s early journey from son of a polygamous tribal chief deposed from his position for corruption, dead when Mandela was nine, the son’s adoption by tribal royalty and Mandela’s development into young activist at university. Mandela was initially bound for a cushy sinecure in the Thembu royal family. Smith tracks the events leading to development of Mandela’s political and social consciousness and his early legal career fighting injustices of apartheid. Along the way, Smith makes several revelations about Mandela’s difficult family relationships, the repercussions of his first divorce, the emotional distance from his first children, his personal battle to become an advocate — the South African equivalent of a barrister — as well as his serious flirtations with Marxist theory and role as leader of African National Congress’s armed struggle. Some of these revelations stand in contrast to the benevolent leader and moral authority Mandela is commonly portrayed as today. This fascinating account does not detract from Mandela’s achievements but reminds the reader that political and social change sometimes only occurs by reasonable people who are justifiably unreasonable.


Latest News

  • The Sleep Of Reason – The James Bulger Case by David James Smith:
    Faber Finds edition with new preface, available September 15th, 2011.

  • Young Mandela the movie – in development.

    From The Guardian
    Read the article

    In the Diary column of The Independent, April 13th, 2011

    More on my previously unsubstantiated claim that the writer-director Peter Kosminsky, creator of The Promise, is working on a drama about Nelson Mandela. I’ve now learnt that the project is a feature film, in development with Film 4, about the young Mandela. Kosminsky is currently at work on the script and, given the complaints about the anti-Jewish bias of The Promise, it is unlikely to be a standard bland portrait of the former South African president.

Latest Review

    New York Times – J. M. Ledgard
  • Nelson Mandela was circumcised as a 16-year-old boy alongside a flowing river in the Eastern Cape. The ceremony was similar to those of other Bantu peoples. An elder moved through the line making ring-like cuts, and foreskins fell away. The boys could not so much as blink; it was a rite of passage that took you beyond pain. read full review

See David James Smith…

Jon Venables: What Went Wrong
BBC 1, 10.35
Thursday, April 21st, 2011