Our search for an answer must begin with Rick Stengel, a New York journalist who is now President Obama’s undersecretary for public diplomacy. (…)
Among the raw materials he was given to work with was the prison manuscript, a sprawling 637-page affair with many uneven passages and no clear ending. Stengel proceeded to turn this sow’s ear into Long Walk to Freedom, a blockbuster that considerably boosted the Mandela legend and formed the basis for a movie of the same title, now doing boffo box office around the planet.
In what follows, there is an element of conjecture. Since Mr Stengel is the ghostwriter of record, it seems logical to infer that he made the changes, even if we have no other basis for saying so. Pending clarification, let’s note that Stengel was a New York liberal who would instantly have realised that stridency was undesirable, especially if it sounded a bit Russian. Clearly those lines about the Cuban missile crisis and the evils of Yankee imperialism had to go. Beyond that, the changes are usually quite subtle — a quote dropped here, a shift in emphasis there.
Having read both manuscripts several times, I think it’s fair to say that Stengel appears to have cleaned up Mandela’s act in three critical areas.
PS: Anti-semites will have a field day with Mr. Stengel, whatever his real religion happens to be.