The Liberator

From The New York Times:

Mandela_2 Tree Shaker: The Story of Nelson Mandela by Bill Keller.

“I have witnessed countless election campaigns in the United States,” writes Keller, who traveled with Mandela and covered his historic 1994 run for president. “Although the exercise of democracy always moves me, the political campaigns often feel phony. Candidates try to avoid controversial positions. Slick television ads take the place of real debate. Most voters don’t even bother to show up and cast their ballot. South Africa’s first free election, by comparison, was thrilling. … I often felt that the entire frustrated history of black South Africa was exploding before my eyes.”

With its striking layout, bright graphics and photographs on almost every page, Keller’s biography of Mandela vibrates with the feeling of history come alive.

The author — now the executive editor of The New York Times — describes how he arrived in Johannesburg as bureau chief for the newspaper in 1992, just in time to witness the complete transformation of a society. The Mandela motorcade “would roll onto a barren soccer field surrounded by rickety bleachers, and the township would erupt in delirium. The throngs hung from lampposts and clung to the tops of fences. They filled the bleachers with a blaze of brightly colored sun umbrellas.”

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