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Isaacson's Book Reveals Elon Musk's Traumatic Childhood in South Africa

Published September 21, 2023
9 months ago

Revelations from biographer Walter Isaacson's new book, launching on 12 September 2023, demonstrates the tough metamorphosis of Elon Musk's childhood in South Africa into the risk-taking personality he is known for today. Musk, known for his feats in the technology, automotive and space sectors, reportedly experienced a volatile upbringing marked by emotional abuse, physical violence, and neglect.



The book emphasises an incident when Musk was severely battered by bullies at Bryanston High School, which required him to be hospitalised. Musk's participation in South Africa's infamous "veldskool" camps - survival camps with a stated goal of instilling resilience and character - turned out to be brutal grounds for bullying, with food and water fights instigated amongst children.


The abuse Musk underwent in his early years did not remain limited to his peers. A stand-out incident involved the family's German Shepherd, which attacked a young Musk causing an ER visit. However, heartbreaking as it was, the incident evolved into a pivotal setback as the boy fought for the dog's life following the attack, who was subsequently shot dead.



Musk's relationship with his father, Errol, underpins the narrative as one fraught with emotional tyrannies. Detailed accounts from Musk and his brother Kimbal recount their father's unpitying, volatile behaviour, including an episode when he vehemently blamed Elon for his own brutal assault at school.


The book reveals the distinct impact of these formative experiences on shaping Musk's risk-tolerant character. Musk is quoted saying, "My pain threshold became very high". Furthermore, the tale serves as an indispensable account of the notable entrepreneur's unyielding journey from a tumultuous South African childhood to leading today's technological disruptors.


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