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Oxford University Press
10 March 2011
Constitution: government & the state; Human rights; Law & society; Constitutional & administrative law
From a young age Albie Sachs played a prominent part in the struggle for justice in South Africa. As a result he was detained in solitary confinement, tortured by sleep deprivation and eventually blown up by a car bomb which cost him his right arm and the sight of an eye. His experiences provoked an outpouring of creative thought on the role of law as a protector of human dignity in the modern world, and a lifelong commitment to seeing a new era of justice established in South Africa. After playing an important role in drafting South Africa's post-apartheid Constitution, he was appointed by Nelson Mandela to be a member of the country's first Constitutional Court. Over the course of his fifteen year term on the Court he has grappled with the major issues confronting modern South Africa, and the challenges posed to the fledgling democracy as it sought to overcome the injustices of the apartheid regime. As his term on the Court approaches its end, Sachs here conveys in intimate fashion what it has been like to be a judge in these unique circumstances, how his extraordinary life has influenced his approach to the cases before him, and his views on the nature of justice and its achievement through law. The book provides unique access to an insider's perspective on modern South Africa, and a rare glimpse into the working of a judicial mind. By juxtaposing life experiences and extracts from judgments, Sachs enables the reader to see the complex and surprising ways in which legal culture transforms subjective experience into objectively reasoned decisions. With rare candour he tells of the difficulties he has when preparing a judgment, of how every judgment is a lie. Rejecting purely formal notions of the judicial role he shows how both reason and passion (concern for protecting human dignity) are required for law to work in the service of justice.
By:   Albie Sachs (formerly a Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa)
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 214mm,  Width: 135mm,  Spine: 25mm
Weight:   392g
ISBN:   9780199605774
ISBN 10:   0199605777
Publication Date:   10 March 2011
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Reviews for The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law

`Dazzlingly honest and original mind.' Nadine Gordimer, TLS `If I still had responsibility for the English judiciary I would encourage every judge for whom I was responsible to read this book. I am sure it would improve their understanding of what the job really involves and what justice is about.' Lord Woolf, from the preface `The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law...is [Albie Sachs'] fascinating and honest account of how his own thinking, emotions and experiences contributed to some of the most startling, original, adventurous, far-reaching and moving decisions taken by any court in the world.' Marcel Berlins, The Guardian `If you love justice as much as you abhor and detest injustice, you will be deeply moved by this engrossing 300 page jurisprudential memoir by Albie Sachs...this is one of the few entertaining books which can be classified as a work on judicial reasoning and how a judge might decide from the insider perspective.' Phillip Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers, 2009 `Mr Sachs's book is not just an appeal for sympathy for poor old judges who have to make difficult decisions but an invitation for public understanding of the abstract strengths as well as the humanity of the process.' John Forsyth, The Scotsman `Sachs boldly engages with the issue of judicial method, cutting a swath through decades of jurisprudence on the subject of how judges decide.' Jeffrey Jowell, Times Online, August 2009 `The universality of the themes is remarkable. This book sheds an entertaining light into the workings of a fine judicial mind and is a useful reminder of the importance of what we do.' Mary Stacey, employment judge, Judicial Studies Board `There is no more heroic, compassionate, or creative lawyer than Albie Sachs, and his book offers the gift of his vivid and humane first-hand account of serving as a judge, interpreting South Africa's post-apartheid Constitution, and pursuing justice on and off the bench. ' Martha L. Minow, Jeremiah Smith Jr. Professor of Law and Dean of the Faculty of Law, Harvard Law School `Sachs looks forward to a South African Constitutional Court doing justice for all...worth stealing a moment to heed Sachs's warning...poignant...' Newsweek


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