Jewish Book Week through the year: Tony Leon

Tony Leon, John Carlin


Tony Leon is a well-known politician in South Africa who was an active participant in the constitutional negotiations which led to the birth of a democratic South Africa. After retirement from parliament, where he was leader of the opposition, he became what he calls “an accidental ambassador” in South America.

In this exclusive London event for Jewish Book Week to present volume two of his recollections, Tony Leon reflected in conversation with journalist John Carlin on “Jews, Nazi war criminals and other extreme contradictions from the far South”.

An Accidental Ambassador, published earlier this year in South Africa, describes how Leon was thrust into diplomatic service in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. From a ‘job interview’ with President Jacob Zuma to a three-week crash course on ‘How to be an Ambassador’ and the contradictions of South African foreign policy, Leon takes the reader on a journey of cultural immersion, comical anecdotes and political reflection.

Tony Leon was a guest of Jewish Book Week in 2009, where he discussed South Africa’s transition to democracy in a sell-out event chaired by James Harding.

Tony Leon

Tony Leon was South Africa’s Ambassador to Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay and before that Leader of the Opposition in the South African parliament and Leader of the Democratic Alliance; He is author of On the Contrary: Leading the Opposition in a Democratic South Africa (2008), an attorney of the High Court, South Africa and formerly lecturer in Law at the University of Witwatersrand.

John Carlin

John Carlin is a journalist, writer and film-maker. He was formerly South Africa, Mexico and Central America bureau chief for the London Independent newspaper and US bureau chief for the Independent on Sunday. He has written extensively about both politics and sports, from Nelson Mandela to Diego Maradona and Rafael Nadal. Carlin wrote the book behind the Warner Bros film \"Invictus\" starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, directed by Clint Eastwood. In 2013 he is at work on a new book about Oscar Pistorius and South Africa post-Mandela.