Conversations with Myself, which goes on sale on Tuesday, presents a more human Mandela, faults, frailties and all.
Conversations was compiled with the 92-year-old former South African president’s blessing by a team of archivists, editors and collaborators who worked from decades of notes, letters, recorded conversations and other material.
In a foreword, US President Barack Obama writes that Mandela, who largely retired from public life in 2004, is inspiring even if he is no saint.
The possibility of violence within Mandela’s first marriage, to Evelyn Mase, who died in 2004, has no place in the official autobiography.
In Conversations, Mandela puts his version on record. In a transcript of a conversation with Ahmed Kathrada, a friend and fellow veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, Mandela denies he once tried to choke his first wife. Instead, he said, she threatened to burn him with a red hot poker. “So I caught hold of her and twisted her arm, enough for me to take this thing out,” Mandela says. “The poker away,” Kathrada responds. Mandela: “That’s all.”
“I love playing and chatting with children, giving them a bath, feeding and putting them to bed with a little story, and being away from the family has troubled me throughout my political life,” he writes.
Other passages are taken from notes Mandela made in calendars in his careful, upright penmanship. On Dec 12, 1984, he jotted: “Results: failed all six subjects.” He writes elsewhere of having too little time to study for his advanced law degree, taken by correspondence while he was in prison.