When it was announced that Nelson Mandela was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1993, the joy among some of us was slightly diminished by the Nobel committee’s decision to award the prize to F. W. de Klerk as well. There would be one ceremony in Oslo for both recipients. I was invited, along with George Bizos, to be in Mandela’s entourage. We travelled to Norway with him and other A.N.C. leaders, and we had the unforgettable experience of seeing him receive the honor.
After the ceremony, we had another kind of experience. As part of Mandela’s entourage, we stood on a balcony of the hotel where all of us, including Madiba (as Mandela was known), were staying. We saw him being celebrated by a huge crowd of people, Scandinavians and others, all singing and chanting A.N.C. freedom songs. It was an ecstatic celebration. George and I noticed de Klerk and his wife standing on an adjoining balcony, and we were not able to credit what we saw next. The de Klerks turned their backs on the joyous crowd in the street below and retreated inside the hotel. Had de Klerk just realized that the songs were not for him?
- excerpt from “Mandela, My Countryman” by Nadime Gordimer for The New Yorker, 5.12.13