And I have a copy of the revised edition, here with me, as I write this post!
Njabulo Ndebele’s The Cry of Winnie Mandela is one of my favorite books of all time and so certainly, it makes the list of my top Ten African Books.
My review of the original begins with:
“The Cry of Winnie Mandela (2003) is one of the most significant literary works written by an African in this new century. It is innovative in form, courageous in its subject matter, unsettling in its interrogation of South African society, and decidedly feminist and humanist in its outlook.” ( Full review is here).
Yes, I stan for Njabulo Ndebele. His brilliance aside, he’s among a small group of African male writers who write women well – very well – and that means I don’t have to suffer (at least not all of the time!) the majority who can’t write women and who can’t see our humanity.
Imagine then, how it felt to come across news that Ndebele had revised The Cry of Winnie Mandela. The new edition, published by Picador Africa, was launched in October 2013.
How does one make perfection perfect?
Ndebele, speaking about the revision and changes to the original, says:
“The changes in the new edition are not that extensive. Over the years, when preparing for public readings on invitation, I would come across parts of the text that, from a stylistic perspective, could have been better written. Other parts could have been imagined more sharply for drama or theme. A new edition was an opportunity to effect corrective revisions. However, I was careful that the revisions did not amount to a new work. The new edition was not a sequel. I needed to retain the integrity of the original.”
I was deeply moved by the interaction between Winnie Mandela and the couple Nicodemus and Caroline Sono at the hearings. It was a profoundly emotional moment that must have deeply affected the participants. The experience enables Winnie to make a remarkable statement: ‘How possible is it to lead a lawful life in future after a lawless Struggle?’
And this, in response to ‘biggest challenges when exploring the perspectives of so many different women’:
“This is a question I have been asked many times in 10 years of the novel’s life. It is one of the questions that necessitated an introduction. Nadine Gordimer wrote to me of some of her impressions of reading the novel. On this particular issue she wrote: ‘Here’s a feminist fiction of strong emotional conviction written by a man. Perhaps could only be written by a man.’
I treasure this comment from a Nobel prize-winning woman of enormous literary accomplishment.
I confess, however, to having been somewhat uneasy about the work being described as ‘a feminist fiction’. I feared that such a well-meant statement might become a label, and I fear labels. While having their uses, they do often simplify and take away depth from anything they are meant to describe. In reality if there is any feminism in The Cry of Winnie Mandela it was one outcome among others, rather than a driving intention.”
He doesn’t need to explain, does he? No.
should can read the entire interview here: Winne’s cry resonates a decade on. )
This new edition includes an introduction, titled Contemplating Winnie Mandela, and articles about the novel. I’m looking forward to discovering those ‘minor’ changes and the fleshed-out secondary characters that Ndebele talks about in the interview. I’m always up for a re-read of this book!
From the introduction:
“Overall, the overwhelming view was that the novel pried open some space for a more honest and potentially healing public reflection on the life of one of South Africa’s compelling public figures and her impact on politics and public sensitivity”.
Most apt. Only, I would add that the novel, while looking at Winnie, also explores South Africa’s sociopolitical ‘posture’.
My thanks to Pan Macmillan Africa for sending me a copy of the revised edition of The Cry for Winnie Mandela.