Letters Nelson Mandela Wrote While In Prison to Be Published by Liveright

During his years as a political prisoner from 1962 to 1990, the future South African president Nelson Mandela didn’t know if he would live another day free. He wrote hundreds of letters from four different prisons, to family, supporters, government officials and prison authorities. His correspondence ranged from the largest subjects, like apartheid, to more mundane matters, like his requests for eye care.

Readers will soon have their fullest access yet to these letters, written during the years that made Mr. Mandela an international symbol of courage and perseverance. Liveright Publishing, an imprint of W.W. Norton & Company, announced today it would publish Mr. Mandela’s prison correspondence. The publisher acquired world rights from the New Zealand publisher Blackwell and Ruth, which was representing the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the executors of Mr. Mandela’s estate.

Liveright will publish two versions of the letters. The first, scheduled for July 2018, the centenary of Mr. Mandela’s birth, will be a single volume consisting of approximately 250 selected letters. It will include facsimiles of several letters, as well as a foreword by Mr. Mandela’s granddaughter Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela. Sahm Venter, a former Associated Press reporter who covered Mandela’s release from prison, will edit and annotate the collection.

A fuller two-volume set, geared more toward scholars and other specialists, is expected to follow in 2019.

“I always felt that this was the grail,” Robert Weil, Liveright’s editor-in-chief, said. “That just getting Nelson Mandela’s actual words to reflect his courage, his wisdom and the unspeakable horrors he went through would be something of extreme historical importance.”

The letters, many never seen by the public, increased in number over time, as restrictions on Mr. Mandela’s correspondence were eased. They illuminate wrenching occasions, like the time when Mr. Mandela was refused permission to attend the funeral of his mother and later, the funeral of his oldest son, who died in a car accident.

“His way of dealing with this, and of trying to give solace to the family while not being able to go to the funeral, is extraordinary,” Mr. Weil said.

The letters were assembled from the collections held by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the South African National Archives and the Mandela family.

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SOURCE: The New York Times
John Williams