Cape Town: A new Desmond Tutu biography to mark his 80th birthday on Friday celebrates the South African icon as a tireless activist and playful inspiration in tributes from world leaders to rock stars.
The book "Tutu: The Authorised Portrait" released on Monday contains intimate accounts from the diverse collection of friends won over in his globe-trotting campaigns to end apartheid rule and then for peace.
"I believe that God is waiting for the archbishop. He is waiting to welcome Desmond Tutu with open arms," said South Africa's first democratic president and fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela.
"If Desmond gets to heaven and is denied entry, then none of the rest of us will get in!"
The insights offer a glimpse behind the activist whose transformation from a clergyman to a global icon is traced alongside family snapshots and pictures of apartheid brutality.
"Emotionally and mentally, Bishop Tutu and I are very close. I call him my spiritual older brother," said Tibet's Dalai Lama.
Copies of letters to apartheid rulers and handwritten extracts of his notes reveal his relentless fight for democracy and his instinctive humanity.
A 1985 missive to FW de Klerk, who would become apartheid's last ruler, demands a passport to replace a document listing Tutu's nationality as "undeterminable at present".
The archbishop then goes on to blast the "policy of apartheid as utterly evil, unChristian and immoral" before signing off with "God bless you".
"I developed tremendous respect for his fearlessness. It wasn't fearlessness of a wild kind. It was fearlessness anchored in his deep faith in God," De Klerk said in the book.
Tutu's trademark playfulness is dotted throughout the book by his youngest daughter Mpho and veteran journalist Allister Sparks.
First Published: Monday, October 03, 2011, 09:21