In his own words

2011-01-27 13:50

Excerpts that jumped out during a brief tour of the archives.

» Regarding claims that he beat his first wife, Evelyn: “I caught hold of her and twisted her arm, enough for me to take this thing out (a red hot poker she was brandishing) . . . that’s all.”

» Letters to Winnie from prison: “I know in you the devastating beauty and charm which 10 stormy years of married life have not chilled . . . My longing for you . . . If I could be on your side and squeeze you . . . I feel as if I have been soaked in gall, every part of me, my flesh, bloodstream, bone and soul, so ­bitter I am to be completely powerless to help you in the rough and fierce ordeals you are going through.”

»  Letter to his daughter from prison: “Once again our beloved mummy has been arrested and now she and daddy are away in jail. My heart bleeds as I think of her sitting in some police cell far away from home . . . longing for her little ones. It may be many months or even years before you see her again . . . Do you see now what a brave mummy we have ”

» Asked in an interview about whether he thought Winnie might be having affairs while he was in prison: “One must not be inquisitive . . . I resigned myself to the fact that I had no opportunity for sexual expression and I could deal with that . . .”

» Letter to commanding officer in prison following his son’s death: “I wish to attend, at my own cost, the funeral proceedings and to pay my last respects to his memory. It is my earnest hope that you will . . . approach this request more humanely than you treated a similar application I made barely 10 months ago . . . for leave to attend my mother’s funeral.”

» From his prison diaries: “Gossiping about others is certainly a vice, a virtue when about oneself.”

“Dreamt of Kgatho (his son) falling into ditch and injuring leg.”

“Raid by about 15 warders under w/o Barnard.”

“DDD syndrome: debility, dependency, dread.”

“It’s easy to hope, it’s the wanting that spoils it.”

“Milk for tea . . . new blade . . . Nescafé, mustard, coconut cookies, sandwich spread, marmite, Fray Bentos.”

» On meeting the playwright Arthur Miller: “Like all truly great men, he did not throw his weight about.”

» From the unfinished sequel to Long Walk to Freedom: “As a young man I combined all the weaknesses, errors and indiscretions of a country boy . . . I relied on arrogance to hide my weaknesses.

“One issue that deeply worried me in prison was the false image that I unwittingly projected to the outside world: of being regarded as a saint. I never was one, even on the basis of an early definition of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

»  On Queen Elizabeth: “She is a fine lady . . . She has a wonderful sense of humour . . . She was just completely at ease ... also very sharp. Very sharp . . . I formed a good impression of her.”

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