William Finnegan’s books include A Complicated War: The Harrowing of Mozambique and Cold New World: Growing Up in a Harder Country. (April 2007)

IN THE REVIEW

Double-Cross in the Congo

The Mission Song

by John le Carré
It must be odd to have a whole category of inscrutable world events assigned exclusively to your authorship. When the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died in London recently, poisoned by a rare radioactive substance that then turned up in planes, hotels, offices, and an apartment in Germany, as well …

The Liberator

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

He was born in 1918 in the Transkei, a beautiful, deeply impoverished, green-hilled region on the Indian Ocean coast which is the home of the Xhosaspeaking people. Mandela’s father, a local chief, was a member of the royal house of the Thembu tribe, whose kings he served as a counselor. Although illiterate, he was a celebrated public speaker: his son, Rolihlahla, who only got the name Nelson from a teacher on his first day at school (Rolihlahla is Xhosa, we are told, for “trouble-maker”), so admired his father, who had a tuft of white hair above his forehead, that he used to rub ashes into his own hair to get the same effect.

The Election Mandela Lost

Although the victory of Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress in the historic South African elections in April was widely expected, the ANC actually lost badly to F. W. de Klerk’s National Party in the Western Cape—a major province that includes Cape Town, the country’s second-biggest city and the …