Conversation with Myself

 Chapter 1 : Deep time

 From a letter to Joy Mosieloa , dated 17 February 1986

When a man commits himself to the type of life he has lived for 45 years, even though he may well have been aware from the outset of all the attendant hazards, the actual course of events and the precise manner in which they would influence his life could never have been clearly foreseeable in every respect. If I had been able to foresee all that has since happened, I would certainly have made the same decision, so I believe at least. But that decision would certainly have been far more daunting, and some of the tragedies which subsequently followed would have melted whatever traces of steel were inside me.

From a Conversation with Richard Stengel

I was being groomed for the position of chieftaincy . . . but then ran away, you know, from a forced marriage . . . That changed my whole career. But if I had stayed at home I would have been a respected chief today, you know? And I would have had a big stomach, you know, and a lot of cattle and sheep.

From a Conversation with Richard Stengel

Most men, you know, are influenced by their background. I grew up in a country village until I was twenty-three, when I then left the village for Johannesburg. I was of course . . . going to school for the greater part of the year, come back during the June and December holidays – June was just a month and December about two months. And so all throughout the year I was at school . . . And then in [19]41 when I was twenty-three, I came to Johannesburg and learned . . . to absorb Western standards of living and so on. But . . . my opinions were already formed from the countryside and . . . you’ll therefore appreciate my enormous respect for my own culture – indigenous culture . . . Of course Western culture is something we cannot live without, so I have got these two strands of cultural influence. But I think it would be unfair to say this is peculiar to me because many of our men are influenced by that . . . I am now more comfortable in English because of the many years I spent here and I’ve spent in jail and I lost contact, you know, with Xhosa literature. One of the things which I am looking forward to when I retire is to be able to read literature as I want, [including] African literature. I can read both Xhosa and Sotho literature and I like doing that, but the political activities have interfered . . . I just can’t read anything now and it’s one of the things I regret very much.

 From a letter to Nomabutho Bhala, dated 1 january 1971

 Your letter was one of the shortest I ever received. Yet, it is one of the best I had read for a long tome. I had thought that our generation of rabble-rousers had vanished with the close of the fifties. I had also believed that with all the experience of almost 50 yours behind of me, it would not be easy for me to be carried away by mere beauty of prose or smooth flow of one’s oratory. Yet the few lines that you scrawled moved me much more than all the classics I have read. Many of the personalities that featured lived simply, all without written record, some 3 centuries ago… They were unusual men ; in so far as their economy and implements were concerned, they lived in the Stone Age, and yet, they founded large and and stable kingdoms by means of metal weapons…

I find the explanation for your dream in the simple fact that you read deeper lessons in our ancestry. You regard their heroic deeds during the deathlesscentury of conflict as a model for the life we should lead today.

I am very fond of great dreams and I particularly liked yours. Perhaps in your next dream, there will be something that will excite not only the sons of Zita Ntu, but the descendants of all the famous heroes of the past. AT the time when some people are feverishly encouraging the growth of fractional forces, raising the tribe into the final and highest form of social organization, setting one national group against the other, cosmopolitan dreams are not only desirable but a bounden duty, dreams that stress the special unity that hold the freedom forces together.

Conversations with myself, Mandela, p.33-p40, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010

Biography of Nelson Mandela

                                mandela

  • Occupation: President of South Africa and Activist
  • Born: July 18, 1918 in Mvezo, South Africa
  • Died: December 5, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Best known for: Serving 27 years in prison as a protest against apartheid

Nelson Mandela was a civil rights leader in South Africa. He fought against apartheid, a system where non-white citizens were segregated from whites and did not have equal rights. He served a good portion of his life in prison for his protests, but became a symbol for his people. Later he would become president of South Africa.

                                         Where did Nelson Mandela grow up?

Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in Mvezo, South Africa. His birth name is Rolihlahla. He got the nickname Nelson from a teacher in school. Nelson was a member of Thimbu royalty and his father was chief of the city of Mvezo. He attended school and later college at the College of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand. At Witwatersrand, Mandela got his law degree and would meet some of his fellow activists against apartheid.

                                                  What did Nelson Mandela do?

Nelson Mandela became a leader in the African National Congress (ANC). At first he pushed hard for the congress and the protesters to follow Mohandas Gandhi’s non-violence approach. At one point he started to doubt that this approach would work and started up an armed branch of the ANC. He planned to bomb certain buildings, but only the buildings. He wanted to make sure that no one would be hurt. He was classified as a terrorist by the South African government and sent to prison.
Mandela would spend the next 27 years in prison. His prison sentence brought international visibility to the anti-apartheid movement. He was finally released through international pressure in 1990.
Once released from prison, Nelson continued his campaign to end apartheid. His hard work and life long effort paid off when all races were allowed to vote in the 1994 election. Nelson Mandela won the election and became president of South Africa. There were several times during the process where violence threatened to break out. Nelson was a strong force in keeping the calm and preventing a major civil war.

                                            How long was Nelson Mandela in prison?

He spent 27 years in prison. He refused to bend on his principals in order to be released and stated that he would die for his ideals. He wanted all people of all races to have equal rights in South Africa.

                                            Some facts about Nelson Mandela

  • Nelson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
  • July 18th is Nelson Mandela day. People are asked to devote 67 minutes to helping others. The 67 minutes represents the 67 years Mandela spent serving his country.
  • Invictus was a 2009 movie about Nelson Mandela and the South African rugby team.
  • He had six children and twenty grandchildren.

http://www.ducksters.com/biography/nelson_mandela.php

Mandela by Obama

A HERO FOR THE NEW CENTURY

mandela

A little more than two decades after I made my first foray into political life and the divestment movement as a college student in California, I stood in Mandela’s former cell in Robben Island. I was a newly elected United States Senator. By then, the cell had been transformed from a prison to a monument to the sacrifice that was made by so many on behalf of South Africa’s peaceful transformation. Standing there in that cell, I tried to transport myself back to those days when President Mandela was still Prisoner 466/64 – a time when the success of his struggle was by no means a certainty. I tried to imagine Mandela – the legend who had changed history – as Mandela the man who had sacrificed so much for change. Conversations with Myself does the world an extraordinary service in giving us that picture of Mandela the man. By offering us his journals, letters, speeches, interviews, and other papers from across so many decades, it gives us a glimpse into the life that Mandela lived – from the mundane routines that helped to pass the time in prison, to the decisions that he made as President. Here, we see him as a scholar and politician; as a family man and friend; as a visionary and pragmatic leader. Mandela titled his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. Now, this volume helps us recreate the different steps – as well as the detours – that he took on that journey.

By offering us this full portrait, Nelson Mandela reminds us that he has not been a perfect man. Like all of us, he has his flaws. But it is precisely those imperfections that should inspire each and every one of us. For if we are honest with ourselves, we know that we all face struggles that are large and small, personal and political – to overcome fear and doubt; to keep working when the outcome of our struggle is not certain; to forgive others and to challenge ourselves. The story within this book – and the story told by Mandela’s life – is not one of infallible human beings and inevitable triumph. It is the story of a man who was willing to risk his own life for what he believed in, and who worked hard to lead the kind of life that would make the world a better place. In the end, that is Mandela’s message to each of us. All of us face days when it can seem like change is hard – days when our opposition and our own imperfections may tempt us to take an easier path that avoids our responsibilities to one another. Mandela faced those days as well. But even when little sunlight shined into that Robben Island cell, he could see a better future – one worthy of sacrifice. Even when faced with the temptation to seek revenge, he saw the need for reconciliation, and the triumph of principle over mere power. Even when he had earned his rest, he still sought – and seeks – to inspire his fellow men and women to service.

Barack Obama in Nelson Mandela, Conversations with Myself; Farrar, Straus and Giroux Editions, 2010

A biography of Mary Shelley

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Mary Shelley was born on August 30, 1797, in London, England. She married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1816. Two years later, she published her most famous novel, Frankenstein. She wrote several other books, including Valperga (1823), The Last Man (1826). Shelley died of brain cancer on February 1, 1851, in London, England.

Early Life

Writer Mary Shelley was born Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin on August 30, 1797, in London, England. She was the daughter of philosopher and political writer William Godwin and famed feminist Mary Wollstonecraft—the author of The Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). Sadly for Shelley, she never really knew her mother who died shortly after her birth. Her father William Godwin was left to care for Shelley and her older half-sister Fanny Imlay. Imlay was Wollstonecraft’s daughter from an affair she had with a soldier.

The family dynamics soon changed with Godwin’s marriage to Mary Jane Clairmont in 1801. Clairmont brought her own two children into the union, and she and Godwin later had a son together. Shelley never got along with her stepmother. Her stepmother decided that her stepsister Jane (later Claire) should be sent away to school, but she saw no need to educate Shelley.

The Godwin household had a number of distinguished guests during Shelley’s childhood, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth. While she didn’t have a formal education, she did make great use of her father’s extensive library. Shelley could often be found reading, sometimes by her mother’s grave. She also liked to daydream, escaping from her often challenging home life into her imagination.

Shelley also found a creative outlet in writing. According to The Life and Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft, she once explained that « As a child, I scribbled; and my favourite pastime, during the hours given me for recreation, was to ‘write stories.' » She published her first poem, « Mounseer Nongtongpaw, » in 1807, through her father’s company.

Love and Horror

During the summer of 1812, Shelley went to Scotland to stay with an acquintance of her father William Baxter and his family.

In 1814, Mary began a relationship with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Percy Shelley was a devoted student of her father, but he soon focused his attentions on Mary. He was still married to his first wife when he and the teenaged Mary fled England together that same year. The couple was accompanied by Mary’s stepsister Jane. Mary’s actions alienated her from her father who did not speak to her for some time.

Mary and Percy Shelly traveled about Europe for a time. They struggled financially and faced the loss of their first child in 1815. Mary delivered a baby girl who only lived for a few days. The following summer, the Shelleys were in Switzerland with Jane Clairmont, Lord Byron and John Polidori. The group entertained themselves one rainy day by reading a book of ghost stories. Lord Byron suggested that they all should try their hand at writing their own horror story. It was at this time that Mary Shelley began work on what would become her most famous novel, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus.

Later that year, Mary suffered the loss of her half-sister Fanny who committed suicide. Another suicide, this time by Percy’s wife, occurred a short time later. Mary and Percy Shelly were finally able to wed in December 1816. She published a travelogue of their escape to Europe, History of a Six Weeks’ Tour (1817), while continuing to work on her soon-to-famous monster tale. In 1818, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus debuted as a new novel from an anonymous author. Many thought that Percy Bysshe Shelley had written it since he penned its introduction. The book proved to be a huge success. That same year, the Shelleys moved to Italy.

While Mary seemed devoted to her husband, she did not have the easiest marriage. Their union was riddled with adultery and heartache, including the death of two more of their children. Born in 1819, their son, Percy Florence, was the only child to live to adulthood. Mary’s life was rocked by another tragedy in 1822 when her husband drowned. He had been out sailing with a friend in the Gulf of Spezia.

Later Years

Made a widow at age 24, Mary Shelley worked hard to support herself and her son. She wrote several more novels, including Valperga and the science fiction tale The Last Man (1826). She also devoted herself to promoting her husband’s poetry and preserving his place in literary history. For several years, Shelley faced some opposition from her late husband’s father who had always disapproved his son’s bohemian lifestyle.

Mary Shelley died of brain cancer on February 1, 1851, at age 53, in London, England. She was buried at St. Peter’s Church in Bournemouth, laid to rest alongside her father and mother and with the cremated remains of her late husband’s heart.

It was roughly a century after her passing that one of her novels, Mathilde, was finally released in the 1950s. Her lasting legacy, however, remains the classic tale of Frankenstein. This struggle between a monster and its creator has been an enduring part of popular culture. In 1994, Kenneth Branaugh and Robert De Niro appeared in a film adaptation of Shelley’s novel… Shelley’s monster lives on in such modern thrillers as I, Frankenstein (2013) as well.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Chapter 4  (Click for French version)

From this day natural philosophy, and particularly chemistry, in the most comprehensive sense of the term, became nearly my sole occupation. I read with ardour those works, so full of genius and discrimination, which modern inquirers have written on these subjects. I attended the lectures and cultivated the acquaintance of the men of science of the university, and I found even in M. Krempe a great deal of sound sense and real information, combined, it is true, with a repulsive physiognomy and manners, but not on that account the less valuable. In M. Waldman I found a true friend. His gentleness was never tinged by dogmatism, and his instructions were given with an air of frankness and good nature that banished every idea of pedantry. In a thousand ways he smoothed for me the path of knowledge and made the most abstruse inquiries clear and facile to my apprehension. My application was at first fluctuating and uncertain; it gained strength as I proceeded and soon became so ardent and eager that the stars often disappeared in the light of morning whilst I was yet engaged in my laboratory…

One of the phenomena which had peculiarly attracted my attention was the structure of the human frame, and, indeed, any animal endued with life. Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed? It was a bold question, and one which has ever been considered as a mystery; yet with how many things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our inquiries. I revolved these circumstances in my mind and determined thenceforth to apply myself more particularly to those branches of natural philosophy which relate to physiology…

Now I was led to examine the cause and progress of this decay and forced to spend days and nights in vaults and charnel-houses. My attention was fixed upon every object the most insupportable to the delicacy of the human feelings. I saw how the fine form of man was degraded and wasted; I beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life; I saw how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain. I paused, examining and analysing all the minutiae of causation, as exemplified in the change from life to death, and death to life, until from the midst of this darkness a sudden light broke in upon me—a light so brilliant and wondrous, yet so simple, that while I became dizzy with the immensity of the prospect which it illustrated, I was surprised that among so many men of genius who had directed their inquiries towards the same science, that I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a secret. Remember, I am not recording the vision of a madman.

The sun does not more certainly shine in the heavens than that which I now affirm is true. Some miracle might have produced it, yet the stages of the discovery were distinct and probable. After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter. The astonishment which I had at first experienced on this discovery soon gave place to delight and rapture. After so much time spent in painful labour, to arrive at once at the summit of my desires was the most gratifying consummation of my toils. But this discovery was so great and overwhelming that all the steps by which I had been progressively led to it were obliterated, and I beheld only the result. What had been the study and desire of the wisest men since the creation of the world was now within my grasp…

http://www.planetpublish.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Frankenstein_T.pdf