The critics on Young Mandela

City Press – Looking Behind The Iconic Grandeur

To sum up his life after the failure of his first marriage to Evelyn Ntoko Mase and before his marriage to Winnie Madikizela, Nelson Mandela said: “Then I lived a thoroughly immoral life.”

He was talking to Mac Maharaj back on Robben Island. Maharaj was complaining about Madiba’s overguarded self representation in his memoir that would later become the draft for Madiba’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.

This detail is what truly makes David James Smith’s latest literary take on the world’s favourite elder statesman, Young Mandela. The book travels back in time to salvage Madiba’s humanity. Smith attempts to strip away the iconic grandeur that usually shrouds Mandela. He does it in a clean, simple fashion. The book is frank and revealing, yet retains some authorial empathy . Even as Smith strips away at the cherished myths, he doesn’t compromise the beloved leader’s dignity.

He also delves, without sensationalising, into the racial dynamics of the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the African National Congress, and the contribution of people such as Wolfie Kodesh and Arthur G oldreich, who were indispensible to the project.

He also sheds light on the role of white communists, such as Joe Slovo and Bram Fischer, at a time when white participation in the struggle was contested.

Smith manages to deliver – with enough swing – on what could’ve been a spent story and makes this book a captivating read.


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