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The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter

The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter

Foreword by DESMOND TUTU
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 257
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  • Book Info
    The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter
    Book Description:

    On April 7, 1988, Albie Sachs, an activist South African lawyer and a leading member of the ANC, was car-bombed in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, by agents of South Africa's security forces. His right arm was blown off, and he lost sight in one eye. This intimate and moving account of his recovery traces the gradual recuperation of his broken body and his triumphant reentry into the world, where his dream of soft vengeance was realized with the achievement of democracy in South Africa. This book captures the spirit of a remarkable man: his enormous optimism, his commitment to social justice, and his joyous wonder at the life that surrounds him. A new preface and epilogue reflect on the making of Abby Ginzberg's documentary film titledSoft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa.(For information about the film, see

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95944-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Desmond Tutu

    Sometimes when I have felt a little depressed I would go to Parliament to sit in the public gallery and look down at all those “terrorists” now occupying the government benches. It is something to lift the heaviest heart to behold those who were regarded by the previous apartheid government as the most dangerous terrorists, and who now, in the new democratic dispensation, are the Hon. Minister of this or that. I would recall that some of them were fellow marchers in rallies against the awfulness of apartheid, and with some we were targets for tear-gassing, and now here they...

  4. Introduction Sacred Wounds: Writing with the Body
    (pp. xi-xxiv)

    In the presence of Justice Albie Sachs one wants to be a traditional praise singer in the Xhosa warrior tradition of South Africa. Draped in leopard skins and waving a ritual baton, one wants to leap and dart while loudly chanting Albie’s many virtues-his courage and strength under fire, his fierce intelligence, his unassailable dignity, and his gentle, sometimes selfmocking, humor. Or, in the classical tradition of Virgil’sAeneid(“Arma virumque cano. . . .”) one wants to sing of “arms and a man who came to [these] shores.” And thereby honor the man, Albert Louis Sachs, born of...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  6. Preface to the 2014 Edition
    (pp. xxvii-xxx)
    Albie Sachs
  7. The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter

    • [ONE]
      (pp. 7-32)

      Oh shit. Everything has abruptly gone dark, I am feeling strange and cannot see anything. The beach, I am going to the beach, I packed a frosty beer for after my run, something is wrong. Oh shit, I must have banged my head, like I used to do when climbing Table Mountain in Cape Town, dreaming of the struggle, and cracking my cranium against an overhang. It will go away, I must just be calm and wait. Watered the tropical pot-plants, stared at the ten heads on the giant African sculpture in my beautiful apartment. Oh shit, how can I...

    • [TWO]
      (pp. 33-94)

      I do not know why it is called a commode, there is nothing commodious about it, and what I am sitting on is nothing more than a little toilet on wheels. But I accommodate myself on it as though I am on a throne. I am independent of my bed, and despite the general feeling of having-come-down-to-earth since my arrival at this well-known London hospital (that in my case prefers not to reveal its name), I feel quite excited, in fact on the verge of a breakthrough.

      This is not the first time I have sat on the commode. The...

    • [THREE]
      (pp. 95-194)

      The ball goes up into the air, the arm and racquet come crashing down, thigh muscles taut, whole body swinging forward, a desperate look on the champion’s face as he serves for an ‘important point’. This is the first time in ten years that I am watching Wimbledon on TV, and far from getting the unalloyed pleasure I expected, I find myself fascinated and slightly repelled by the close-up muscularity. It is not the running around the court that unsettles me, nor the overhead smashes or volleys, it is the strain on the faces and in the bodies of the...

    • [FOUR]
      (pp. 195-204)

      There is no sound as my feet plunge heavily but joyously into the sand, only the constant suck of the shimmering surf and my ecstatic gulping of air. My toes dig into the cakes of sand burnt dry by the warm sun after the tide retreated from this vast stretch of island beach. I am back, I am alive and I am free, and laughing wildly and triumphantly to myself on my relentless jog. I have left the boat and the bodyguard and my friends far behind, and feel I can labour my legs on forever. At some stage I...

  8. Epilogue
    (pp. 205-246)

    Was it worth it?

    A long, slow, totally intimate yet highly publicised run was the affirmative way I had chosen to mark my stepping aside from organized political activity. The mayor of Cape Town gave me a kiss and a gentle push with her hands to send me on my eleven-kilometer way, the traffic police cleared the road, television crews developed their calf muscles while they ran backwards to capture frontal images of my elated panting, a waiter handed me a small cup of espresso (not a banned substance) when my legs pounded step by slow thudding step into the...

  9. Epilogue to the 2014 Edition
    (pp. 247-252)

    I am nervous, in a kneeling position, uneasily cradling Oliver. The camera is in position and the sound-mike carefully placed so as not to be drowned out by the noise of passing traffic. How do you explain to your three-and-a-half-year-old son that this is the spot where his Daddy was blown up and lost most of his right arm? In the morning, when Oliver snuggles into bed between Vanessa and me, I will maneouvre ‘long arm’, with fingers pointed like a beak, to speak puppet-like to ‘short arm’, who insists he wants more sleep: Oliver will laugh and shout: ‘Wakey,...

  10. Timeline of Major Events in the Life of Albie Sachs
    (pp. 253-254)
  11. Persons Mentioned in the Narrative
    (pp. 255-262)