REVIEWED: Dare Not Linger

Mandela

Dare Not Linger by Nelson Mandela, Mandla Langa and Graca Machel (Memoir/Biography/Recent History, 2017).

While thoroughly readable and interesting, this book is a somewhat odd blend of personal memoir and political biography. It was originally conceived as the former, a direct sequel to the former South African President’s best-selling account of his life and his famous struggle against the barbaric Apartheid system, Long Walk to Freedom. That memoir ended with his release from prison (after 27 years) and in fact this second volume’s title is taken from a statement from the end of the previous book which correctly indicated that his “long walk is not yet ended.” There was much still to be done. Accordingly, Dare Not Linger was designed as his report on his experiences after his 1990 release, including his 1994 election as South Africa’s first truly freely elected President and his single, eventful 5-year term in that office.

Accordingly, Mr. Mandela began work on this book upon leaving office. But already being 80 years of age in 1999, he was finally unable to finish this last great task he’d set himself. Eventually progress on the book stopped and then he died in 2013.

His third wife and widow, Graca Machel, approached award-winning South African author Mandla Langa about somehow completing this book. Machel herself contributed a brief but loving prologue, while Langa took on the difficult task of combining Mandela’s written reflections with historical documents such as the President’s speeches and the remembrances of others with inside knowledge of the challenging years of the country’s transformation, as well as his own analysis of it all.

The result is a sprawling and intensely researched picture of Mandela the man, the statesman, and politician. The figure that emerges is of an idealist mixed with a thoroughly realistic and pragmatic worldview. Mandela was famously willing to forgive onetime enemies, as long as they were willing to make positive contributions to his nation’s new situation. This book makes clear that this was more than a public persona, but in fact the central core of the man. Yet he was certainly no blindly hopeful ‘push-over’ and his tolerance had its limits.

This book is a very favorable and fond, but not fawning look at a complex man. One of the most important political and social figures of the late 20th Century, in fact. It requires careful reading, as it involves a rather massive roster of men and women who shared this time of both exuberant and controversial, even painful change. Many of these people will be unfamiliar to those outside of South Africa (as they were to me). But no man changes a nation alone and their insights, their actions and comments, criticisms and words of praise are all important parts of the story–and contribute new understanding into the man at the center of this socio-political evolutionary storm.

Owing to its unusual origins, Dare Not Linger is not a particularly smoothly written book. It’s chapters focus on particular themes, rather than a strict chronology of events. But it’s a more-than-worthy addition to the nonfiction literature concerning one of the truly great men of recent times and the nation he dearly loved.

Recommended. 

 

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