Saturday, October 1, 2011

Five best: prison writing

Martin E. Marty, an emeritus professor at the University of Chicago, is the author, most recently, of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's 'Letters and Papers From Prison': A Biography.

For the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of books on the theme of prison writing. One book on the list:
Conversations With Myself
by Nelson Mandela (2010)

"'I feel I have been soaked in gall" was Nelson Mandela's summary of his 27 years in prison during the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa. He experienced the gall of bitter suffering under a brutal prison regime but did not let spiritual bitterness befoul his soul. "Conversations With Myself" has a scrapbook quality, as it is with letters, memorabilia, excerpts from recorded conversations, entries from diaries and notebooks. But the effect in some ways brings readers closer to the man than even his autobiography did. In a letter written in 1971, when Mandela had been in prison for nearly a decade, he expresses regret that he possesses only "superficial information on a variety of subjects" and laments that he "lacks depth and expert knowledge on the one thing in which I ought to have specialised, namely the history of my country and people." Mandela of course went on to write a new chapter in that history when he was elected president in 1994.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see John Mullan's list of the ten best books written in prison.

--Marshal Zeringue