Goodbye Bafana

Finally I finished a book again that I can recommend.  Phew that had been a while.

"Goodbye Bafana" is the story of James Gregory who has been Mandela's prison guard for several decades at Robben island, Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Vesder.  He learned Xhosa from his best friend Bafana, a boy living at one of the kraal's at Gregory's parent's farm .   This knowledge gave him the perfect skill to become a censor officer for the political prisoners in the apartheid's regime.

Despite being submerged all his youth by the ideas supporting apartheid nurturing hatred against those black beast that tried to hurt South Africa,  Gregory is immediately impressed by the calm and respectful nature of the emprisonned ANC leaders. This triggers Gregory to research the ideas from the ANC and a lot of his prejudices get shattered during his search & study.  A relationship of mutual respect (and friendship?) grows between Gregory and Mandela while the political background in South Africa thawns very gradually.  As a reader you're dragged into the hope that the society will change and that one day Mandela will be a free man leading the nation.

Personally I was still relatively young when Mandela has been released so I've not followed the news bulletins about the apartheid as a child. Of course I know more or less what has happened in South Africa's history but not quite in detail at all, so I found the book very interesting. It draws an amazing & respectful image of Mandela's wiseness and intelligence.   Also James Gregory himself is portrayed very positively. Even though he admits having truly believed all the with hatred filled prejudices he learned at school,  very little proof of this is given in the book.  I am a bit suspicious about James Gregory's fairly rapid "conversion" in a society that would have probably brainwashed him of other ideas.  I wondered how much his story has been influenced by the hindsight...knowing that his book is obviously written in a totally different South Africa than when he started his job as a prison ward.

Afterwards I've read some remarks online where it is claimed James Gregory would have polished his friendship with Nelson Mendala quite a bit for his book to sell more. Nelson Mandela would only have mentioned him twice briefly in his own biography which would seem very little after having read this book. I do not know how close he's truly really been to Nelson Mandela. Nevertheless I've truly enjoyed reading it.  I have not seen the movie yet that is based on this book.


Brian Miller said…
hmmm...sounds like an interesting book....will check and see if our library has it...
Autumn Leaf said…
Het ligt nog ongelezen in mijn boekenkast. Maar ga het nu zeker eens uitproberen na de positieve commentaar van jou.

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