Mandela memoir goes on sale

2010-10-12 11:00

A book painting an intimate portrait of Nelson Mandela went on sale today, offering readers a glimpse at letters and diaries for a more personal look at one of the world’s most revered figures.

Conversations with Myself brings together correspondence, personal notes and hours of recordings with an unfinished autobiography that would have been a sequel to Mandela’s world-famous memoir Long Walk to Freedom, published in 1995.

Publisher PQ Blackwell and the Nelson Mandela Foundation said the book would give readers access to the private man behind the public figure who led South Africa’s struggle against white-minority rule and served as its first democratically elected president.

The foundation compiled the book using documents from its archives. The book will be published in 22 countries and 20 languages.

In South Africa, several bookstores held early-morning launch events to celebrate the arrival of what is widely expected to be the 92-year-old Mandela’s last book.

“It’s a whole lot of his own writing, which we haven’t seen for a long time,” said James Hendry, a Johannesburg writer who was among the first to buy the book this morning.

“This will be probably the last real publication we have of his stuff before he passes on to wherever he’s going.”

John Fawcett-Peck, manager of a Johannesburg bookstore that promised readers a free coffee with purchase of Conversations with Myself, called it “definitely the book of the year”.

But publicity around the book has been relatively quiet in South Africa.

Some 20 customers queued to buy copies at the 8am opening of Fawcett-Peck’s store. But within 30 minutes, the shop’s clerks were sitting idly at their cash registers, untouched piles of the book stacked seven high on the counter.

“I would have liked a few more customers,” Fawcett-Peck said.

He added that Mandela himself had attended the launch of his previous book. At that event, the presence of Madiba?– the clan name by which Mandela is affectionately known – helped the store sell 1?000 copies the first day.

“Unfortunately Madiba could not be here today because he’s just not well enough,” Fawcett-Peck said.

Hendry said the fact that not many South Africans knew about the book was an indication that Mandela’s vision for a new South Africa has not been fully realised.

“If you look around here, you’ll see most of the customers at this launch are white, and that’s simply because not enough black people will find out about it,” he said.

“Most of them live in rural areas and we sell books in traditionally wealthy, affluent white areas. I don’t know how you solve that problem, but it’s quite sad.”

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