Alert! According to TheBookseller.com, a pre-Frankfurt Book Fair “select auction” has just concluded for a book born of access to the complete, uncensored Nelson Mandela archive housed by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which will be called Conversations with Myself, and will be published next year to commemorate the 20th year of Mandela’s release from prison.
The work, already purchased by Pan Macmillan UK for an undisclosed sum, is set to become “the book of the fair”. Here’s the original TheBookseller.com report:
Geller said: “What is so amazing is that he wrote virtually every day of his life and kept all his notes. The book reveals the personal cost to him of his imprisonment on Robben Island and includes heartbreaking letters about the deaths of two of his children. It shows the personal side of this icon, his amazing humanity and wisdom. It is also a historical document which may bring about different interpretations of various events.”
The Guardian picked up on the story, which centres around Jonny Geller of the Curtis Brown literary agency, almost immediately – and fleshed it out with news of another Mandela book slated for next year, Young Mandela, “charting Mandela’s life in the early 1960s before his imprisonment”, to be published to coincide with the FIFA 2010 World Cup:
“He has notebooks from Robben Island [where Mandela was imprisoned] which are absolutely packed with his handwriting. And he kept drafts of letters he sent, most of which never got through. There’s scraps of paper with his notes on leadership.”
There is also, in one of the less predictable epistolary partnerships, a letter discussing the role of police in society set down on notepaper emblazoned with both the legend From the Desk of Nelson Mandela and the image of the rotund and lasagne-loving cartoon cat Garfield.
The newspaper has also got Justin Cartwright to write a personal meditation on the importance of the soon-to-be-published archive:
There will be extracts from his prison diaries, unseen letters and journals and drafts of speeches. Personal reflections on his role in South Africa and the wider world are promised. I can’t wait, because there are some very big questions that have still not been answered.
The central fact of Mandela’s life is his extraordinary humanity. In South Africa they like to call this Ubuntu, a sense that one’s uniqueness on earth is the quality of humanity one extends to others.
Photo courtesy MtHolyoke.edu