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 ground-breaking union, a very modern political marriage that played out on the world stage.
One of the most celebrated political leaders of a 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 idealized 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 and 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 struggle to define anti-apartheid itself.