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Odyssey to Freedom

Human rights activist and lawyer for Nelson Mandela, George Bizos has somehow managed to condense his entire life story into a mere six hundred pages.

Categorized into seven parts, Odyssey to Freedom takes the reader through a journey of history, struggle, and human emotion.

Autobiographies generally focus on the life events and history of the author. Odyssey to Freedom is not any different in this regard.

George Bizos begins the novel by telling the reader of his early adult struggles against Nazi Germany and how he came to live in South Africa.

He highlights his dramatic escape with New Zealand soldiers from the small Greek village where he lived and how his personal history since birth has shaped him as an individual, a personal history that has had an indirect effect on millions in South Africa.

After reading the novel, one cannot fail to notice that although Odyssey to Freedom centers on Bizos’s life, it seems to tell an entirely different story. A story that is not only about Bizos’s life, but one about the mass majority of South Africans and their struggle against apartheid.

The manner in which Bizos presents his take on the struggle against apartheid is also unique and refreshing. After Bizos begins his career in law, the novel’s structure radically changes and Bizos begins illustrating his viewpoint on the apartheid struggle through his observations in the courtroom, case-by-case and moment-by-moment. This unorthodox approach to writing his autobiography gives the reader a more detailed account of the judicial events during the apartheid regime, depicting the emotions and ambience of the courtroom in a way no court manuscript ever could. Plus, court statements from thousands of black South African citizens were not recorded or falsified during the apartheid regime for the benefit of those in power. This makes Odyssey to Freedom one of the few texts in the world with a human and emotionally deep portrayal of the events in apartheid courtrooms.

I find that just about any individual will enjoy reading Odyssey to Freedom. The novel, simply put, has something for everyone. For readers interested in international relations and how to world perceived South Africa during apartheid, Bizos integrates that into numerous areas of the novel. For readers interested in political science, Odyssey to Freedom provides insight into how one of the world’s most controversial regimes operated. And for readers simply wishing to enjoy a good book, the novel provides stories of love, struggle, and companionship that far surpass the typical stories presented on the evening news.

Odyssey to Freedom provides readers with an excellent insight into history and human struggle, while also illustrating the profound impact George Bizos had on modern South African government and society.

Book Information:

Title: Odyssey to Freedom
Author: George Bizos
Publisher: Random House
Date of Publication: 2007
ISBN: 978-1-4152-0095-7


  1. I have no doubt this must be an excellent book to read for many reasons. Indeed it was an Odyssey to Freedom for the black majority population in South Africa who had a courageous and admirable leadership to reject an aparheid solution originally offered to them.
    I believe the people who need to read this narration of an odessey to freedom are those people who purport to be leaders in the half occupied by Turkey Republic of Cyprus. To see what leadership really means and how freedom can be achieved.
    I believe George Bizos was very lucky in his life, in that he found himself within people who had the will power to fight for freedom and not sell it out. Thus his fight and efforts were not wasted but fruitful and made their own lines in the history books.
    George Bizos will leave a legacy that will also remember and honour his origins, being Greek, a contributor to freedom away from nowadays miserable Greece and Cyprus without leadership with proper inspiration, aspiration, knowledge or cknowledgement of how freedom is won…

  2. I do not and never think of Greece as being miserable. Their economic plight is but their spirits are not daunted. Ex patriot Greeks are in a majority of cases do not comprehend Greek attitudes especially if they have lived in the West and their different approach is not understood. I agree with Fanoulla that they lack leadership but there still remains the spirit of life amongst the people.

  3. What is remarkable about George Bizos is that , although born in Greece, because of his “skin colour” he was part of the privileged minority. Not many whites of the era opposed apartheid. The privileged rarely want change for obvious selfish reasons. Somehow those in power seem blind to will of their people. You would’ve imagined that Mubarak, Assad, Gadafi etc could have foreseen what was coming.
    Bizos was like a German standing up for the Jews during WWII. Whites who stood for human rights at the height of apartheid were ostracized and even worse subjected to security police survellance and prosection. They were seen as naive, trusting and duped leftists and traitors.
    One of the staunchest white opponents of the system was an Afrikaner Braam Fischer, a Rhodes scholar and top QC, whose grandfather was the President of one of the Boer republics and his father Chief Justice. Nelson Mandela , in his typically gracious and modest way, said once ( words to the effect) that Braam Fisher was a greater man than he. Afterall, said Mandela, he stood up for his people but Fisher turned his back on his “own people” and his privilges in the cause of supporting the disenfranchised (ethnically and culturally different) majority. Fisher was actually convicted of treason, spent decades in prison where he died.
    On Fanoulla’s theme, unfortunately politicians are more concerned with “convenience” and expediency than with principle and conviction. Indeed , the white government came up with a miriad of solutions in the pre democratic phase. Each involved concessions but were ploys aimed at avoiding “one person/ one vote”. They were all rejected out of hand. Mandela was offered prison release subject to conditions. He refused to accept any conditional release and insisted that all prisoners who were convicted with him be released before him. He would be the last to” accept” his release!
    .When Bizos was asked to join the democratic government as a minister, he declined because he replied that he needed the right to speak freely and could not “tow the party line” or be hamstrung by politics. For this reason, he also turned down a judicial appointment. Judges cannot freely express open opinions.So, he has also been fiercely cirtical of the ruling ANC on many ocassions.

  4. I fully agree with Fanoulla about Greece and Cyprus needing a “Bizos” immediately.
    I believe such a leader will have determined and capable people to follow.

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