Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Review by Shridhara K T

Finally I have finished reading; it was a long read! I am talking autobiography of a great leader world has seen so far – ‘LONG WALK TO FREEDOM’ by Nelson Mandela and the role of ‘freedom’ throughout his life!

The book has a fascinating childhood story of a South African child, youthful life of a law student, heart touching story of an oppressed man, patriotic story of a freedom fighter, a sad but thrilling story of a prisoner, a leader who succeeded in his goal and a perfect love story which shows how important trust and sacrifices are in life.

As I was going through this masterpiece, I started seeing Mandela as the mixture of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Subash Chandra Bose, for he believed that while fighting you should change your mode in accordance with what your enemy chooses. He started with non-violence but then strongly felt that an army is necessary to fight the enemy and started building it, but when the government was ready for the talks he switched his gears and convinced ANC that they stop armed struggle. This shows the adaptability a leader should have. No matter what ones principles are, one should side step if the situation demands so.

A funny thing happened when I was going through his life in prison: I found many similarities between a prison and a hostel. Yes, you read that right! The routine life in hostel makes one forget about the time and outer world. The wardens make the rule and students are reluctant to follow it, officials would come and listen to the problems but there is a very little change after that. Students give nick names to wardens and other officials, students try to break out of the campus, having a visitor excites you! In hostel, the only thing worse than bad news is no news at all. It is always harder to cope with the disasters and tragedies one imagines than with the reality, however grim or disagreeable. A letter with ill findings was always preferable to no letter at all! (Now replace students by inmates, hostel by prison and read again!!

According to me the best take away of the book is that lot of leadership qualities have been discussed with real life situations. I would like to share some of the quotes from the book here:

‘As a leader one sometimes takes actions that are unpopular or who’s results will not be known for years to come’
‘Experience is the foundation of leadership and that obligations to the people take precedence over loyalty to an individual’
‘Sometimes there is nothing one can do to save something that must die’
“Exercise is a key not only to physical health but to peace of mind”
‘Truly to lead one’s people one must truly know them’
‘There are times when a leader must move out ahead of the flock, go off in a new direction, confident that he is leading his people right way’
‘Sometimes it is necessary to present one’s colleagues with a policy. Fact is already a fiat accompli’*
It also has a message for the mass “Do not expect to be driving a Mercedes or swimming in your own backyard pool the day after the election ….”

Finally he concludes saying “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more to climb. I have taken to rest to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended”.

All we need to know is “The darkest hour is before the dawn.” I truly enjoyed reading it and LONG WALK TO FREEDOM’ goes to shelf as one of my favorites.

* Fiat accompli = fact accomplished.


    1. What you have provided is food for thought! Most of us had not heard about Smuts. Only historians and aficionados would have known or at least heard about him. Thank you for introducing us to Jan Christiaan Smuts. Maybe we will review one of the books about him soon so that more and more people can recognize him.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Suggestions:
        1) Alexander Parker ’50 People who stuffed up South Africa’ ISBN 9781920137335 (throughout the different descriptions Smuts is mentioned and with Mandela he is the only leader of South Africa in the past 100 odd yrs who does not feature in this entertaining book).

        2) A book that should be translated in English is that of the Dutch author (historian) Martin Bossenbroek. Title ‘De Boeren Oorlog’ (The Boer War) which puts the South African (colonial) background in a historical perspective and reading it one gets a better understanding of ‘Apartheid’ (race segregation started under British rule!). Smuts already showed his visionary abilities at a young age. Another thing is that Smuts is also one of the ‘architects’ of the allied invasion in Normandy in 1944. Etc. etc.
        ‘De Boeren Oorlog’ – Martin Bossenbroek. ISBN 9789025369934 / NUR 686 (published by Atheneum-Polak & Van Gennep, Amsterdam. Published in 2012, I just read the 14th imprint of this year and can’t understand that there is no English translation (hope you can read Dutch 😉 )

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you so much for the suggestions! We were looking for books on Smuts and came across quite a few, but were not able to decide which one to go with…. BTW, none of us here at We Read That Too! understand Dutch 😀 So, if you could provide us a review of De Boeren Oorlog’ in Dutch and the review’s translation into English as well, then we would be happy enough to dance around and post the review on We Read That Too!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Maybe in the future (=2015). At the moment too busy in the bookshop and it’s already difficult to keep up with social media ( 😉 ). But if you need specific info about ‘The General’ just ask (there are contact details + form in our blog). We respond fast (well … for south Africans.. )

            Liked by 1 person

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