At fist glance, it may seem strange that Nelson Mandela has been a point on conversation this semester around our library’s One Book, One College program on World War Z. I do not believe Mandela was known as a zombie warrior, but, nonetheless, he was a focus of conversation around World War Z.
This is because the history of South Africa plays a central role in the novel. The “Redeker Plan” which supposedly saved humanity from the zombies originated in South Africa as a result of Apartheid in South Africa.
Max Brooks, the author of World War Z, includes a character who closely resembles Mandela, even though this character is never directly named as Mandela. The character in the book approves of the Redeker plan as the only way to save humanity. He does this tragically, since the execution of the plan will mean that millions of innocent people will be sacrificed to the zombies
The inclusion of a Mandela-like character is in the book illustrates the role of Mandela in the world. First, Mandela carried a moral authority like few other people. His suffering and stance against the apartheid government will long be remembered as a courageous and heroic act. His efforts to unify South Africa and the rest of the world again injustice put him in a position of authority as a non-religious voice of morality. Thus, in the book World War Z, when the Mandela character gives approval, this carries an admission that the Redeker plan is the only option for humanity.
It is also noteworthy that Brooks does not actually name Mandela when Brooks does name other world leaders (such as Fidel Castro). This can be seen as a sign of respect for Mandela. Brooks was able to use his book as a way to comment on the problems of racism and injustice by using South African history and the memory of Mandela. But, he did so in a way that respects Mandela’s legacy.
We join the world in mourning Mandela’s passing, but we also celebrate his life. His inclusion in World War Z has allowed our campus to join the discussion about his life.