The Quality of Mercy

A South African psychologist ponders forgiveness

Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is a South African psychologist of striking moral intelligence and clarity who served on Archbishop Desmond Tutu's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up in the aftermath of apartheid's overthrow to try to deflect retaliation and revenge. Eugene de Kock is a white South African who served for many years as the commander of state-sanctioned apartheid death squads. De Kock is serving a 212-year sentence in a Pretoria prison for crimes against humanity.

Beginning in 1997, Gobodo-Madikizela interviewed De Kock for a total of 46 hours. Guards chained the prisoner to a metal stool bolted to the floor of...

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