Nelson Mandela Foundation


The autobiography of Anthony Sampson, The Anatomist, was launched at the Nelson Mandela Foundation

Feb 20, 2009 – The autobiography of the late Anthony Sampson, The Anatomist, was launched at the Nelson Mandela Foundation last night. The event marked not only the publication of Sampson’s memoirs but also the handing over of Sampson’s library of South African books to the Centre of Memory.

Born on August 3, 1926, in Billingham, England, Sampson is regarded as one of the greatest journalists and writers of his time. He wrote extensively about South Africa and in 1999 published his award-winning book, Mandela: The Authorised Biography.

The Anatomist is the 27th book by Sampson, who died in December 2004.

Educated at Oxford University, he moved to Johannesburg in 1951 to become the editor of Drum magazine, a position he held until he returned to England in 1955. In South Africa he forged a close relationship with Mr Mandela and he attended the “Rivonia” sabotage trial in 1964 and advised Madiba on his four-hour address from the dock about his dreams of a non-racial South Africa. It ended with the now famous words: “It is an ideal which I hope to live for. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

“Anthony Sampson was Madiba’s authorised biographer so there is a special relationship between the Foundation and the Sampson family, which is why the launch is taking place here,” said the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s Memory Programme Manager, Verne Harris.

“We are also grateful to the Sampson family for the donation of the Sampsons’ South African library, which will become part of the Nelson Mandela Foundation Centre of Memory.”

Sampson had completed all the chapters of The Anatomist before his death, though some were still in draft form. His wife, Sally, fulfilled his final wish, which was to get it published.

The event also marked the announcement of the winner of the first Sampson Foundation Award for Journalism which went to freelance journalist Ufrieda Ho for her work on migrants in South Africa. The award was set up in 2007 to encourage writers to break new ground and probe below the surface of the new South Africa by engaging in in-depth research reporting.

At the event Nobel laureate and Sampson’s close friend, Nadine Gordimer described his autobiography as a “beautifully written” and “essential” read, while human rights advocate George Bizos said he “couldn’t put it down”.

Gordimer also paid special tribute to Sally Sampson and her son Paul for their efforts in “bringing this book to life”.

Remembering Sampson’s relationship with Mr Mandela, Bizos chuckled: “They met in Soweto in the early 1950s, where they became friends. Nelson wasn’t a good drinker, Anthony was.”

When Sampson returned to the UK in the mid 1950s “they kept in touch through a mutual friend, Mary Benson”.

“Benson went into exile in the mid 1950s and she was a friend of both Anthony and Nelson. When Nelson went to the UK illegally in 1962 they met in London, where Anthony wrote stories covering the struggle here in South Africa,” Bizos added.


Nic Buchanan, co-ordinator of Nelson Mandela: the Authorised Comic and Amina Cachalia at the launch of The Anatomist


Nadine Gordimer, George Bizos and Sally Sampson with a copy of Anthony Sampson’s autobiography


Old friends and admirers of Anthony Sampson witnessed the launch of the The Anatomist at the Foundation on Thursday night