*Winnie and Nelson: Portrait of a Marriage*

Have you ever visited a bookshop and noticed that a cover caught your attention in just the right way?  But then you say “Nah, I don’t want to read a book right now on that topic.”  But then you crack open the book and read a short amount and the quality of the work catches your attention all the more?  And then you buy the book?

I thought Jonny Steinberg’s Winnie and Nelson: Portrait of a Marriage was one of the very best books of the year, and most of all this is a book about South Africa.  Here is one excerpt:

The outstanding feature of boxing in mid-century black South Africa was its wholesome and egalitarian dignity.  Wholesome because it could be contrasted to the brash honor of a gangster, and the township gans of those times loomed large in people’s minds, their violence dominating the newspaper headlines every.  And egalitarian because the dignity it conferred was available to everyone.  Nelson understood this and he delighted in it.  “In the ring,” he remarked much later, “rank, age, colour and wealth are irrelevant.  When you are circling yoiur opponent, probing his strengths and weaknesses, you are not thinking about his colour or social status.”

I learned just how much it was the earlier white South African plan (highly unrealistic, of course) not to have blacks move into South African cities at all.

Here is a short bit about Nelson Mandela:

In prison, the present wasted away.  Only the past and the future remained, both largely foreign to him until now.  Once he found them, he worked on them ceaselessly, year upon year, threading who he had been to who he’d become once his endless confinement was over.

An excellent book on many levels, no you cannot judge a book by its cover but judging a book by its cover is underrated nonetheless.


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