Nelson Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom
As 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.