Winnie Madikizela-Mandela ‘protected her privacy by telling fictitious stories about her childhood’ – Jonny Steinberg discusses his new book Winnie and Nelson
 More about the book!

Jonny Steinberg sat down with Polity SA to chat about his new book Winnie and Nelson: Portrait of a Marriage.

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.

‘The more famous [Winnie] became, the more she had to speak about herself, but the more she wanted to protect her privacy,’ Steinberg says. ‘And she protected her privacy by telling fictitious stories about her childhood.

‘I understood why she was doing that, I had respect for that. But it made me into a bit of a detective, because I wanted to know about her actual childhood.’

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. 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.

Watch Steinberg’s introduction to the book:

Categories Non-fiction South Africa

Tags Jonathan Ball Publishers Nelson Mandela Polity SA Videos Winnie and Nelson Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

1 Votes

You must log in to post a comment