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Home / World / How did Nelson Mandela survive 27 years in prison? A new collection of letters brings light.

How did Nelson Mandela survive 27 years in prison? A new collection of letters brings light.



Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, most of them on Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. His encounters with visitors from the outside world were brief and strictly controlled; He spent much of his time alone, unsure if he would ever show up alive.

But a new collection of Mandela's letters from prison shows how the freedom fighter, who was to become South Africa's first black president, remained grounded and connected to the outside world, even as the apartheid leaders tried to silence him. " The prison letters from Nelson Mandela," edited by South African journalist Sahm Venter, were released this month and contain 255 letters from Mandela – about half of them have never been seen in public.

Venter, who has spent nearly a decade revising Mandela's letters, said in an e-mail to The Washington Post that the wisdom that Mandela showed in his letters is "particularly relevant in today's world, which is the Rise of … experienced racism, sexism and xenophobia. "

The book shows the personal side of South Africa's most famous man – a page that Mandela was reluctant to share publicly following his imprisonment and before publishing his memoir "Long Walk to Freedom." Mandela missed imprisoning his children and burying both his mother and his older son, Thembi, who was killed in a car accident in 1969. His correspondence shows the efforts he undertook to humanize the prison officials for special permission to attend family funerals – requests that were denied. They also provide a lens for the pain that Mandela experienced when he remained isolated while grieving for his loved ones.

"The feeling of fear and depression that had hit me so brutally when I received the terrible news of his death returned and began graciously mercilessly inside me," he wrote to his wife Winnie after a visit by Thoko Mandela , the young widow of his son Thembi, shortly after the 24-year-old was killed.

Letters to his children also reveal how Mandela tried to be an active father out of jail – often missing out. While his daughters were young when he was arrested, Mandela addressed his family's difficulties head-on and did not shy away from explaining where he was and what his imprisonment meant. In his letters to several family friends, he expressed concern about how the children fared, especially after Winnie's arrest in 1969.

This year, Mandela wrote to his daughters, admitting they now lacked comfort They were expecting their mother. "[F] or long you live like an orphan." The letter also revealed his deep agony over Winnie's arrest and his willingness to share this pain with his young children. "My heart is bleeding when I think of it. Police cell away from home, maybe alone and without anyone talking, and with nothing to read," he wrote.


The Nelson Mandela Foundation published a photograph of young Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie as part of the Mandela Prison Letters book launch in Johannesburg on July 10th. (Eli Wienberg / Nelson Mandela Foundation / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock)

In a letter to Winnie himself, he described how she heard she had been trapped Englisch: www.mjfriendship.de/en/index.php?newlang=en. op … 39 & Itemid = 32 The knowledge that she was free, he told her, was part of how he could maintain a sense of freedom and joy.

"One day we will have the privacy that will allow us to share the delicate thoughts that we have buried in our hearts during the pas Eight years," he wrote It was June 1969, Winnie Mandela would add more Mandela herself would not be released from prison for 15 months or so.

The words Mandela sent to his family show remarkable patience and positivity, but Venter said one of her most unexpected discoveries had been "To find detailed letters to the prison authorities in which he complained about the conditions of detention."

In 1970, Mandela asked the commander to reconsider his refusal to provide him with four pounds of honey, the mandela In another, he asked Pond's Cold Cream for his dry skin and complained of Vaseline instead, many of his letters to Prison Nisbeamte had requests for new learning material – he had a law degree from his cell. A long letter from 1976 describes how he spent 13 years sleeping on a cement floor that gets wet and cold during the rainy season and urgently needs pajamas. White prisoners were always provided as pajamas and only black prisoners.

"He was not allowed to write about prison conditions or other prisoners in his letters to family and friends," Venter said. "So today through these letters we can find out exactly how it was for him and his comrades in prison."

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