Nelson Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom

Long walk to freedomAs a veteran of long distance journeys, I often reflect on the nature of such journeys, on what makes them attractive and compelling, and the psychology of persistence and single-mindedness. The title of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography is an apt metaphor to describe his life. For more than 70 years, the journey of his life focused on a single destination: the freedom of all the people of South Africa.

In my own inconsequential way, when I have embarked on a long cycling expedition, I have experienced the highs and the lows, the exhilaration and the discouragement, the excitement of nearing a destination and the frustration of getting lost. The mountains can seem unconquerable, the headwinds impossible, the rain and the cold unforgiving. You may scream to the elements “Never again!”, but the engagement with the journey is ultimately addictive.

So in the case of Nelson Mandela. That long walk to freedom was painfully slow and laborious; the road was littered with potholes; the mountains in the distance never seemed to get closer, but he knew freedom lay on the other side. If you can believe the man, 27 years of brutal imprisonment was but a small price to pay for the ultimate goal. At the age of 71, on his release from prison, when most people are settling into well-deserved retirement, he was just embarking on the career of his life: his ultimate destination of leading his people to freedom.

From the first to the last of its nearly 700 pages, this book will engage the reader. Despite the unfamiliarity  of the South African landscape, the plethora of characters and acronyms, the difficulty with names and languages, the sometimes discouraging amount of political detail, the humanity of the man comes across strongly. But do not be taken in by the tender, smiling face on the cover. Behind that engaging and endearing smile lies a man of determination and obstinacy. Nothing would deflect him from the ultimate destination of his long walk to freedom……….. absolutely nothing.


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on December 28, 2013, in Book reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Pamela Ostler

    Dear Frank, We have met once or twice at or near St Hugh’s, you may know me as the editor of Ouse Views (or Hugh’s News), I have read your impressive Serendipities with interest, cycling was a way of getting around other parts of the country when I was younger and had no ties, but I’ve not cycled for I dunnamamy years and the traffic now would terrify me! Your comments on Nelson Mandela’s autobiography have brought me to write now, would you be willing for me to pirate your review for Ouse Views? I think your text will fill one page of the mag. if you are happy for me to make minor changes to fit the page or adjust the line length conveniently, they will not change the meaning. I hope to have the next one out in February, so am collecting material now. Your comments on Mandela are probably how many of us see him and his amazing approach to his life. Best wishes to you and your wife, Pamela Ostler Date: Sat, 28 Dec 2013 09:48:49 +0000 To:

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