It is a good time to remember that not everything has to be a confrontation.
Mandela and the General by John Carlin and Oriol Malet
John Carlin and Oriol Malet deliver a powerful story about averting a terrible bloodbath. In 1994, South Africa was on the brink of civil war, and this graphic novel wants you to know what happened, how two very different men decided to put aside their differences in order to prevent a terrible outcome.
I had no idea about South Africa’s history before I opened this book. Sure thing, I’ve watched a couple of Mandela-themed films over the years, but I could not imagine how this country had such a mixed bag of racism, hatred, and inequality to boot. I also didn’t know that apartheid was a 50-year affair that started in 1948 and was finished by Mandela rising to power in 1995.
And I loved the setting of this particular story: Mandela is finally out of jail, black people are starting to hope, and white nationalists are starting to get afraid, very afraid. Since fear is a powerful tool, it was easy to gather 50,000 well-armed former soldiers ready to fight to the death to defend their cause.
Mandela’s response was unique: he personally sought out General Constand Viljoen, former chief of apartheid South Africa’s military. He did this to avoid civil war, meeting in secret, trying desperately to avoid radicalism and a clash of forces. John Carlin was then a journalist, and was able to meet with General Viljoen himself after these events took place. So, he was able to know firsthand his reaction to Mandela’s invitation, and the way the general’s views about Mandela changed once he met with him face to face.
If you are slightly curious about the man and the story, you will enjoy this graphic novel immensely. Mandela is fascinating, and I could not but remember Terry Pratchett and his views about race and racism, about the inability to change and what it means for fundamentalists everywhere; and, in the opposite direction, the wonderful thing that empathy is. Pratchett may have been writing fiction, but he was completely right about what is important and what is not.
November 5, 2018
Genre: Biographies and Memories
Published by Plough Publishing House