Jonny Steinberg Winnie & Nelson: Portrait of a Marriage


Code 9780008353797
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From one of South Africa's foremost nonfiction writers, a deeply researched, shattering new account of Nelson Mandela's relationship with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Drawing on never-before-seen material, Steinberg reveals the fractures and stubborn bonds at the heart of a volatile and groundbreaking union, a very modern political marriage that played out on the world stage.

One of the most celebrated political leaders of the twentieth century, Nelson Mandela has been written about by many biographers and historians. But in one crucial area, his life remains largely untold: his marriage to Winnie. During his years in prison, Nelson grew ever more in love with an idealised version of his wife, courting her in his letters as if they were young lovers frozen in time. But Winnie, every bit his political equal, found herself increasingly estranged from her jailed husband ' s politics. Behind his back, she was trying to orchestrate an armed seizure of power, a path he feared would lead to an endless civil war.

Jonny Steinberg tells the tale of this unique marriage - its longings, its obsessions, its deceits - turning the course of South African history into a page-turning political biography. Winnie & Nelson is a modern epic in which trauma doesn't just affect the couple at its centre, but an entire nation. It is also a Shakespearean drama in which bonds of love and commitment mingle with timeless questions of revolution, such as whether to seek retribution or a negotiated peace. Told with power and tender emotional insight, Steinberg reveals how far these forever entwined leaders would go for one another, and also, where they drew the line. For in the end both knew theirs was not simply a marriage, but a contest to decide how apartheid should be fought.

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'Remarkable . . . In heartbreaking detail, Jonny Steinberg adds up the catastrophic toll on these two lives and the lives of people around them. Yet he never takes his eye off the larger picture, and the damage done to the Mandelas comes to stand for the damage done to millions; their history is the history of modern South Africa . . . [He gives] a fresh understanding of the crossroads at which my country now stands. Gripping and profoundly moving, this is Jonny Steinberg's finest book. I can't wait to read it again'
- Damon Galgut, Booker Prize-winning author of The Promise, in Literary Hub

'Based on far-ranging research as well as on a trove of recently uncovered materials . . . Steinberg's massive essay in political biography is unlikely to be superseded in a long time'
- J.M. Coetzee, Nobel Laureate 2003

'Only Steinberg could have written a book in which Winnie and Nelson can appear both larger-than-life and all too human. What a book! What an achievement!'
- Jacob Dlamini, author of The Terrorist Album

'For so long the Mandelas were seen as they were lauded-the freedom fighters who birthed a nation. Yet behind the front lines and the headlines, always there is a shadow narrative, subtler and more complex, a story about revolution and marriage, power and revenge. In this remarkable dual political biography, Jonny Steinberg has at last told it. Winnie & Nelson is a powerful, page-turning political fable unlike any I've read'
- Aminatta Forna, author of Happiness and The Window Seat

'This eloquent biography captures the mythic quality of these two leaders, their great love story and tragic estrangement, and the hubris and human frailty beneath the personas . . . A magnificent portrait of two people joined in the throes of making South African history'
- Kirkus


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