One of the most celebrated political leaders of our time, 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 Madikizela-Mandela.
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 war.
Jonny Steinberg tells the tale of this unique marriage – its longings, its obsessions, its deceits – making South African history a page-turning political biography.
Winnie and Nelson is a modern epic in which trauma doesn’t affect just 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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jonny Steinberg is the author of several books about everyday life in the wake of South Africa’s transition to democracy. He is a two-time winner of the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award, and an inaugural winner of the Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes. Until 2020, he was professor of African studies at Oxford University. He currently teaches part-time at the Council on African Studies at Yale University's MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies and is visiting professor at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) in Johannesburg.
'Winnie & Nelson: Portrait of a Marriage' is published by Jonathan Ball Publishers