Anthony Sampson Remembered at Launch of The Anatomist
“A citizen of the world through his questing, inquiring mind who always retained his Africanness”. So did Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer fondly acclaim the “stranger from England with an Oxford accent” who became a dear friend, Anthony Sampson.
She was speaking at the launch of the author’s 27th book, his autobiography The Anatomist, completed posthumously by his wife, Sally Sampson. The launch took the tone of a meeting of old friends. Held at Nelson Mandela House in Houghton, Johannesburg, the principal guest speakers, Gordimer and Bizos, spoke at length of “this young man roaring up on his motorbike to edit a journal for those sufficiently awake in Apartheid South Africa”.
Sampson’s days as editor of Drum magazine during 1950’s Apartheid South Africa were recalled with excitement. Gordimer hailed his friendships with the imprisoned and exiled leadership of the parties of the resistance movement, going where many white South Africans had feared – failed – to tread.
Bizos, tongue-in-cheek, placed the book in the context of other autobiographical tomes, calling it “a welcome change to some autobiographies that some of us impose on you”. (He was referring, no doubt, to his own Odyssey to Freedom, published last year.) He admired Sampson’s knowledge of Africa, particularly South Africa – but noted that the book also “documented, analysed and commented on England, the European Union and America”.
The Anatomist is, Bizos declared, an “invaluable volume to help us understand our past and guide us through our uncertain future”. He urged everyone to read it: “there is much in it for all of us”.
Sally Sampson ended the launch of the book by speaking about the Anthony Sampson Foundation that had been created in 2007. She introduced Ufrieda Ho, the first winner of the Anthony Sampson Memorial Journalist award of R120 000, who discussed her recent series of articles on immigration and xenophobia in South Africa.
“The phenomenon of Drum reflected the man behind it”
Nadine Gordimer and George Bizos remembered Anthony Sampson at the launch of his memoirs at the Nelson Mandela Foundation this week. Here is an edited version of their speeches
In the early 1950s, a young man would come roaring up on a motorbike to the house where Reinhold Cassirer and I had just moved in.
He was Anthony Sampson, the editor of a magazine called Drum, brought from England by Jim Bailey to edit a venture in journalism that did not exist in apartheid South Africa – a journal in English written by urban Africans for the challenging interests of urban blacks and anyone else sufficiently awake to the transformation of closed communities that was taking place audaciously, at risk, under the nose of racist exclusions.
“Memoirs help us understand the ‘gentleman from The Observer’”
The Anatomist is the 27th book written by Anthony Sampson. He has documented, analysed and commented on the history of Africa – and particularly South Africa – Britain, Europe and the United States during the second half of the 20th century.
The Anatomist is an epilogue to his works written over the past 50 years.
EH Carr, in one of his lectures What Is History, says that in order to understand history, it is neccessary to know the person who wrote it. Sampson’s autobiography, published posthumously with the assistance of his wife Sally, is an invaluable volume to guide all of us to understand our past and guide us into our uncertain future. The new book tells us about the life and times of Sampson. Although he avoids the use of the word “I”, he reveals some matters that even we as his friends did not know.