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Nelson Mandela to publish new memoir

Nelson Mandela will release a new memoir focusing on the best of his personal archives and letters from his time as an anti-apartheid activist and former South African president, the publisher Macmillan said Wednesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Nelson Mandela will release a new memoir focusing on the best of his personal archives and letters from his time as anti-apartheid activist and former South African president, the publisher Macmillan said Wednesday.

Mandela, 91, shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with then-South African President F.W. DeKlerk for their work in steering the country toward democracy.

Jon Butler, who oversees nonfiction publishing at Pan Macmillan, said he worked out a deal Monday with Jonny Geller of the Curtis Brown Agency on behalf of the Johannesburg-based Nelson Mandela Foundation to publish the work in Britain and elsewhere.

"He's written every day of his life, and what he wants to do is to make that available," Butler told AP Television News. "So we've done a deal for UK and Commonwealth rights, including South Africa and Australia."

He did not disclose how much the deal was worth, but said it was a "significant figure." He said the money would go to the foundation Mandela established after stepping down as South Africa's first black president in 1999 to oversee charitable and development work and ensure his legacy remains relevant into the future.

"We've seen some of his wonderful letters, letters he wrote during his time on Robben Island, diaries, notes to himself before meeting presidents and celebrities, and you just feel very close to the man," Butler said. "Just seeing his writing on a page, just seeing his thoughts coming out, so it's very exciting.

"But we have to work very hard now to get the right book out of this."

Geller did not disclose how much was paid, but called the planned work a "significant book and it will obviously be big in every territory. But the most important thing is that I think that it is an unprecedented project."

He said it was one of the few times, if ever, that he could recall "a living political leader giving access to their entire archives before, and especially perhaps one of the greatest living human beings."

Other publishers are looking at the proposal, too, Butler said, including some in Germany and Spain.

In Johannesburg Wednesday, Verne Harris, acting director of Mandela's foundation, said the book would be based on diaries, notebooks and calendar jottings in the foundation's archives.

Mandela is known for well-crafted speeches. In "Long Walk to Freedom," he describes the manuscript on which his memoirs were based undergoing vigorous editing by other top African National Congress leaders imprisoned with him on Robben Island.

The new project, Harris said, would be more intimate and less rehearsed, presenting what Mandela says "to himself when he's not speaking to an audience."

Nelson Mandela: A revolutionary's life

Slideshow  36 photos

Nelson Mandela: A revolutionary's life

View images of civil rights leader Nelson Mandela, who went from anti-apartheid activist to prisoner to South Africa's first black president.

"We're wanting to share with the world the Nelson Mandela they don't often see," said Harris, who is also the foundation's chief archivist. "That's him on his own, reflecting."

The foundation's archives — which include notes Mandela made to himself on scraps of paper during ANC meetings and his accounts of dreams jotted on calendars — have been used by scholarly researchers. The material has also formed the basis for other books produced by the foundation, including a comic book version of his life story.

Geller said the material is intense, emotional and personal, including letters to his children and his wife.

"I think what first struck me when I first saw some of the material from the archive was how deeply personal it is," he told AP Television News on the sidelines of the book fair. "And it's very moving just to even see his handwriting, let alone the content. And when you see the letters to his wife, letters to his children, many which never got through, never got sent.

"But he wrote them anyway, they were almost conversations with himself, and that was extremely moving."

Pan Macmillan is the fiction and nonfiction arm of Macmillan Publishers, which also puts out scientific journals like Nature as well as professional and educational literature. Macmillan Publishers is itself a subsidiary of the Stuttgart, Germany-based Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH.