International Advisory Council /

John Carlin

John Carlin is a much-travelled journalist and author whose book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation, about former South African president Nelson Mandela, is the basis for the 2009 film Invictus

Carlin began his journalism career at the Buenos Aires Herald in 1981, writing about film, football and politics. In 1982, he began a six-year stint as a foreign correspondent in Mexico and Central America working for, among others, The Times and Sunday Times, the Toronto Star, BBCCBC, and ABC (US) before joining the staff of The Independent at the newspaper’s launch in 1986.

Carlin was The Independent‘s South Africa bureau chief from 1989–1995.In 1993, Carlin wrote “War on Peace”, a BBC documentary on the South African Third Force, his first television work.

From 1995–1998 he was the United States bureau chief for The Independent on Sunday. In 1997, Carlin wrote an article titled “A Farewell to Arms” for Wired magazine about cyberwarfare that inspired the 2007 Bruce Willis film, Live Free or Die Hard (Die Hard 4.0). 

In 1998, Carlin joined El País, the world’s leading Spanish-language newspaper, where he worked as a senior international writer and football columnist until October 2017. Carlin was writer and interviewer for the Emmy-nominated 1999 documentary “The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela” for the American PBS series Frontline. He has since worked on a dozen more film documentaries.  

Carlin won the 2000 Ortega y Gasset Award, Spain’s most prestigious journalism prize, for an article on immigration for El País. In 2004 he won the British Press Awards “Food and Drink Writer of the Year” prize. He has won other awards in Spain and Italy. He has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Republic, The Observer and the Financial Times. He now writes a weekly column on international politics for Barcelona’s La Vanguardia and Argentina’s Clarín. His latest book is a graphic novel called “Mandela and the General”. Carlin holds an MA in English Language and Literature from Oxford University.