In the epoch of the twitterati - when culture is more and more served to us in palatable, postmodern, bite-sized fragments, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is pure old-school - providing the grand narrative of a life very much in the style of the epic film of yore - think Ghandi or Ben-Hur, for instance.
While struggling against Apartheid and then bringing it down, Mandela maintained his core belief in the equality and dignity of all human beings irrespective of race, religion or gender. He added another element. Irrespective of action. In that he upheld the rhetoric many religions pronounce but rarely live by, many leaders say but rarely deliver. The ability to forgive and move on.
Before Nelson Mandela had been laid to rest, talk, inevitably, turned to his legacy. How would he be remembered: a benign, saintly figure, or, an unswerving revolutionary? For some, there was no ambiguity: he was one, or the other. But, for others, it wasn't contradictory that he embodied both traits: saint and revolutionary.
Dear revisionists, Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel. Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail... Well, try hard as you like, and you'll fail. Because Mandela was about politics and he was about race and he was about freedom and he was even about force, and he did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn't do nearly enough of it.
If there had been no Mandela, or if Mandela had been a different kind of man, would South Africa's destiny have been different? How much difference can one man make? These are not, I know, original questions. But I think, for obvious reasons that I don't have to spell out, this may be a good week to ponder them.
Mandela has been a leader of remarkable courage, of stamina and resilience. These qualities started to show early in school, as Mandela suffered penalties and expulsions, the result of his steady anti-apartheid conviction. He went to law school, passed the bar and helped to establish South Africa's most prestigious black law firm. No small feat, these accomplishments in those days.