Three books about Nelson Mandela

J. M. Ledgard in the New York Times Book Review:

Legard-articleInline Nelson Mandela was circumcised as a 16-year-old boy alongside a flowing river in the Eastern Cape. The ceremony was similar to those of other Bantu peoples. An elder moved through the line making ring-like cuts, and foreskins fell away. The boys could not so much as blink; it was a rite of passage that took you beyond pain. They exclaimed, “Ndiyindoda!” (“I am the man!”). A brambly leaf was wrapped around the wound to stop the bleeding. The boys had to lie in a certain position, and at midnight they were woken. One by one, they went out into the cold and buried their foreskins in stony soil. For Mandela, the circumcision was something that linked him with his Thembu ancestors; in losing a part of his manhood, he became a man.

The surprise in these three very different books is how darkly and deeply the former South African president’s life reads like an African quest narrative.

More here.