EMMA BROCKES INTERVIEWS NELSON MANDELA
I was dreading the long trip to South Africa. But traveling by the new generation of Nasa spaceship, which I was test piloting, speeding at Mach 300 billion trillion, ensured that I made it there in literally no time at all. It was a most delightful trip, traveling as I was with Elvis, the thinking woman's undercover FBI agent and best-selling rock 'n' roller; the pipe-smoking Shergar, the thinking woman's pipe-smoking racehorse; JFK, the thinking woman's brain-splattered politician; and Michael Ignatieff, the thinking woman's liar and shit-for-brains. Unfortunately, as I made it to South Africa before I left - something about the warping of spacetime in relativity, which I taught Einstein - there was no time to discuss any of my contributions to theoretical physics with my traveling companions.
Nelson Mandela is waiting for me at the airport, though he claims to be a taxi driver called John. He's in disguise! We fly off on a genetically-modified Dodo to his underwater lair in the sky. Since I am an accurate and honest journalist - correction: the most accurate and honest - I note everything down accurately and honestly. Though I try asking him about the Dodo, Nelson apologises that the noise from the "taxi's engine" is such that he can't hear me. He's such a joker! We soon find ourselves under armed attack, and the flak from the anti-aircraft guns and Stinger missiles draws his attention away from accurate and honest me. For some strange reason, though, Mandela keeps apologising for the awful traffic. He thinks he's keeping me from cracking under the pressure by talking about something other than our almost certain deaths. A missile barely misses one of the Dodo's wings. Fortunately, Buck Rogers, returning from the twenty-fifth century, enters the fray and knocks out the enemy fighters and anti-aircraft fire trying to bring the Dodo down. We finally make it to safety. Mandela now starts demanding payment for the "taxi fare". He's keeping up the pretence. I humour the "cabbie" and pay the fare. Mandela disappears; he is obviously making his own way, disguised as a cabbie, to the place where I am meant to interview him. I am nonplussed as to why he is not escorting me, especially after what we had just gone through together on the heavily-attacked Dodo. He's acting very strangely indeed - I think he may have some form of dementia or something. Anyway, using my long sexy legs, which are, so my colleagues tell me, to die for, I finally make it to the interview. I am depressed to find that other journalists are there, and that this looks like a press conference, not an interview.
"Tell me something about your early days, Nelson," I ask. "Well," he says. I've cornered him already! Aren't I the cleverest, sexy-legged woman who has ever lived? Ruining the interview, Nelson decides to reply: "As I was telling Johann Hari the other day, my years in the Hitler youth were my happiest." I accurately write down everything he says about his days as a Nazi. I then plunge right in by saying how the brown shirts would nicely match the colour of his skin. Mandela, dazzled by my perceptiveness, agrees by completely ignoring me and saying absolutely nothing. He knows he's no match for me; no one is, especially not Chomsky. He's even more dazzled by my accurate note-taking, which he does not notice or refer to. I have created a super-accurate system of shorthand, which I have passed on to Johann Hari, whereby I imagine what it is I would like to have heard the interviewee say and write it down. Sometimes I make it up later. It's so accurate that the interviewee is not necessary, especially as they may get things wrong, say things they don't mean and forget to say the most pertinent things. I remember everything for them. See! I'm doing them the favour! My accuracy and honesty as a journalist are only matched by my sharp and perceptive insights, like the unequalled quip about his skin pigmentation matching his youthful attire. To my utter horror, I see other "journalists" misquoting Mandela completely. They're writing all kinds of gibberish about discrimination and fanatical racism under a system called apartheid. They won't get to where I am by being so inaccurate and dishonest. After the press conference, as his limousine sped off into the distance I heard him snore out in code, from about twenty miles away, that he wants to meet me later for a more intimate interview.
We meet later at my hotel suite, where accuracy and honesty are in full flow by the accurate and honest me, unlike those so-called journalists at the press conference who misquoted Mandela. It's a more relaxed atmosphere. We prance about naked on all fours (though neither of us do this, especially Mandela as he is not there). I ask him, perceptively, whether he really deserved the Nobel Peace Prize, and whether it ought to be renamed the Blair-Ignatieff Prize for Peace. Again, he doesn't realise that his answers aren't relevant to the interview. "No, I didn't deserve it," he says. "I think it was a token gesture. You know, because I'm black," he says. "By the way, why does everyone refer to me as a black man? I have white skin and female genitalia! Since you are the most honest woman in the world, and since you are proven to be the cleverest by demolishing Chomsky, perhaps you can help me. Does all this make me a man or a woman? Black or white? Bent as a nine bob note or straight as an arrow? I'm so confused. I can trust you because you're known for your honesty and intelligence," he says (if he were in the room, which he isn't).
I tiresomely but perceptively, honestly and accurately explain that he is a gay white woman who believes she is a straight black man. That fool Freud never could get his head around this, though I tried explaining it to him when I was his tutor; he was forever distracted by my long sexy legs, which my colleagues tell me are to die for. The world is full of stupid and inaccurate journalists who aren't as perceptive, accurate or as honest or as leggy as me. I'm the first journalist to notice Mandela's womanliness. "Thanks, Emma," Nelson says. "That fool Chomsky would never have been able to answer that. You're so clever. You really showed him up for the idiot he is, didn't you?" I smile an honest smile. And do you know why? It's because I'm so honest. Mandela impatiently asks: "How did you humiliate the 'world's greatest intellectual'?" I reply: "I made it up! Aren't I clever?" Mandela nods his head in agreement. He asks me whether I'm making this interview up. Cryptically but honestly, I ask: "Since you're not here, who are you talking to?" He's stumped. I smile that honest, bewitching smile of mine. He says that my smile reminds him of a trip he made yesterday to the fifth dimension on his Dodo. "Nice, isn't it? I spend all my time there, even now," I say. "It depends on the company," he replies. "I was lucky enough to go with my old friend Hitler. A funny and wronged man. People completely misunderstand him. He has a sweet smile like yours," replies Mandela. Anyway, given the new situation, we spend the rest of the day filling out deed poll forms. His name is no longer Nelson Mandela but "Nelly Womandela".
We walk out onto the levitating porch, guarded by Minotaurs. Womandela, however, has decided to dress as a maid and busily sweeps the porch. "Your days as a freedom-fighter…" Womandela stops me. She is visibly angered (or would be if she knew she was angered and speaking). "'FREEDOM FIGHTER'," she unspittingly spits out, able to scare quote and italicise the spoken word, even italicise the scare quotes themselves. Amazing that this linguistic miracle can occur, isn't it? You'd think I was a fantasist and a liar if you didn't know me as the accurate and honest journalist that I am. "Let's get one thing right. I was a terrorist. As were all those who fought the democratically-elected government in South Africa. I don't know if you know this," she whispers so quietly that I had to read her lips (which weren't moving), "but the ANC is a front for Al Qaeda." I reply perceptively and accurately: "Of course I know this, Nelly, not least of all because I know exactly what it is you're going to say. But don't you forget that Al Qaeda is a front for the International Union of Homosexuals." Womandela bows to my superior knowledge. "You are brilliant," she doesn't say. I knew she was going to not say this. Thankfully, I am able to read her mind easily, using a technique a green fellow called Yoda taught me a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. I correct her: "I know. After all, I defeated Chomsky. I am the most brilliant woman who has ever lived. And the most perceptive, accurate and honest journalist. And I have legs to die for, so my colleagues tell me."
I note, accurately and honestly, everything Womandela says. As I look back up, though, an exasperated-looking maid is asking me if I'm feeling alright. And why it is I keep referring to her as Nelly Womandela, and what the ANC has got to do with Al Qaeda. It is now that my perceptive skills leap into action. Not for nothing am I the Guardian's rising star. I notice that Womandela has, like this morning when s/he was Mandela and was disguised as a cabbie, disappeared. I then rebuke the maid for listening in on a private interview and tell her to get out of my sight. Thankfully, I notice the invisible note pinned to the invisible unicorn. Gratefully, it is written with invisible ink. I read it carefully (or would do if any of this were true). Womandela has written that she wants me to join her on a Safari expedition.
I finally meet Nelly and we have a wonderful time hunting mammoths (or would have if any of this were true). Womandela is fooling everyone but me by asking all the others to call her Bruce. At the end of the night, Womandela, or "Bruce", says "Well, goodnight, Emma." I unravel the code and take this to mean: "Yes, it's me, Womandela! I'll join you later in the Jacuzzi. We have to be circumspect! Can you imagine the fuss if I were caught with someone as leggy as you?" Not wishing to miss Womandela later, I make my way towards the Jacuzzi right away and wait for her. Settling down into the Jacuzzi, I let the hot, bubbling water envelop me and I relax and fall asleep. I wake up to find Nelly sitting opposite (though I can't make her out because of the steam…and because she's not there). She says I'm the sexiest woman she's ever seen. I correct her: "I'm the sexiest woman who has ever lived, Nelly. My legs are to die for, so my colleagues say. I'm also the smartest, most perceptive, most accurate and honest journalist ever." A cleaner comes out of the misty steam. She asks me who I'm talking to. She claims that there's no one there except her. Wisely, Womandela has submerged herself in the water. No one can see her (because she's not there). As she reminded me earlier, it would be unwise for Womandela, especially now that she has come out as a white woman, to be found in a Jacuzzi with someone as sexy and leggy as me. South Africa would never recover. For some unfathomable reason, the cleaner is at pains to explain to me that she is not a lesbian and does not find me sexy. The cleaner is obviously over-worked: like the maid, she has become delusional.
The exasperated-looking maid from earlier rushes in and takes the cleaner to one side. The maid whispers something about a "crazed journalist" who "hears things and sees things no one else does" and to "be wary of this fantasist", who is apparently staying at the same hotel as me. I try to make out the name of this fantasist and crazed liar, believing that she might be referring to Johann Hari, who has been wrongly vilified in such terms. This is most unfair. Other than me, of course, Hari and Jayson Blair are the most honest and accurate journalists in the world. Having been unable to make out the name of the charlatan, I demand that these two irritants leave. Seconds after they leave, Womandela pops back up. She says that she can't bear it any longer and makes a move for my beautiful long legs (or would do if any of this were not the ravings of a seriously unhinged fantasist). I leap out of the tub, do the finite-infinite-forward-back-somersault-with-and-without-pike which won me Olympic gold, then, using a technique a three-thousand-year-old Shaolin Monk taught me during our days as warrior-monks in the thirteenth-century court of Ming the Merciless, leap into the clouds. On the way down, however, I use my Jedi skills and dive into a passing helicopter. Lasers shoot out of my eyes and the pilot disintegrates.
I fly the helicopter back to the Guardian's offices in Farringdon, arriving just in time to file accurate and honest copy. The editors say it's a fantastic feature. They gush that I'm the Guardian's most brilliant young star and most accurate and honest journalist, and that they've got someone special for me to interview next. "Time for you to interview God. Accuracy will be essential. And as you're the most honest and accurate journalist, other than Johann Hari and Jayson Blair, there's no one else who can be trusted not to make things up so as to look smarter than the interviewee. We're so lucky to have someone as honest and as accurate as you, Emma. And those legs are to die for," they say accurately and in all honesty. I laugh an honest laugh. Why? Because I am so damned honest. "God?" I say, "That fool is no match for me," I reply perceptively, accurately and honestly. While teleporting myself into the throne room of the seventh layer of heaven, I can hear my Guardian colleagues say, "We're so lucky to have someone as sexy as Emma. Those legs are to die for! And she's so perceptive, accurate and honest too."
Corrections and clarifications Guardian apologises for slur on Chomsky