During the Rivonia trial in 1963-64, Fischer played the central role preventing Mandela and others from getting the death penalty.
After the trial, Fischer himself was convicted of treason, then spent 11 years in prison before getting released in April 1975 -- just weeks before he died from cancer.
Gordimer's writings were banned under apartheid. When Mandela was sworn in as president in May 1994, Gordimer sat near him on the stage.
"Waiting for the Barbarians" is the most memorable of 14 novels I read by Coetzee, who lives in Australia.
"What has made it impossible for us to live in time like fish in water, like birds in air, like children? It is the fault of Empire! ... Empire dooms itself to live in history and plot against history."
Published in 1980, "Waiting for the Barbarians" reflects events in South Africa at that time. It could be seen as describing our own ventures into Iraq and Afghanistan today.
One of my major interests was foreign policy, ever since I read Wilfred Burchett's "The Furtive War: The United States in Vietnam and Laos," shortly after it came out in 1963. An Australian, Burchett had already reported on wars for 25 years.
After nine years, France lost its war in Indochina at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.
When "The Furtive War" was published, John F. Kennedy was president and U.S. involvement in Indochina was still minimal. Burchett predicted a similar outcome awaited the U.S. if it decided to follow in France's footsteps.
Frantz Fanon's "The Wretched of the Earth: A Negro Psychoanalyst's study of the Problems of Racism and Colonialism in the World Today" is a classic work about poverty and exploitation in Third World countries.
Focusing on the Algerian revolution, Fanon's book was published in French in 1961 and English in 1966.
In his powerful introduction, French author Jean-Paul Sartre looks at individuals willing to resist colonial rule.
"This new man begins his life as a man at the end of it," Sartre writes. "He will be killed; not only does he accept this risk, he's sure of it. ...
"The child of violence, at every moment he draws from it his humanity. We were men at his expense, he makes himself man at ours: a different man; of higher quality."
Over the last 50 years, I have read scores of books about foreign policy by brilliant authors across the political spectrum, including: Peter Singer, Noam Chomsky, Ivan Eland, former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, current Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Edward Said, James S. Risen, Seymour Hersch, Gareth Porter, Gordon M. Goldstein, Stephen Kinzer, James Fallows, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jeremy Scahill, Matt Taibbi, Nick Turse, Chalmers Johnson.
In his recently published book, "Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country," Andrew J. Bacevich urges Americans to become much more involved in trying to influence government decisions.
After graduating from West Point, Bacevich served in the Army for 23 years, fighting in the Vietnam and First Persian Gulf wars. In May 2007, his son Andrew was killed in Iraq. Today, Bacevich is a Boston University history professor.
Bacevich's other powerful books include: "The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War" and "Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War."
"Popular attitudes toward war, combining detachment, neglect and inattention, helped create the crisis in which the United States is mired," Bacevich writes in "Breach of Trust."
"The warriors may be brave, but the people are timid. So where courage is most needed, passivity prevails, exquisitely expressed (and sanctimoniously justified) in the omnipresent call to 'support the troops.' "
Urging us to get actively involved in questioning government policies could be the best advice we will ever get.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.