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Gandhi: A Life Hardcover – February 23, 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (February 23, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471243787
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471243786
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,884,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The aim of Gandhi: A Life as described by writer Yogesh Chadha is "[Reclaiming Gandhi] as a human being out of the many myths surrounding him." Chadha's method seems to consist mainly of a "frank" detailing of the Indian revolutionary leader's personal flaws. But the sheer amount of biographical data in this book is impressive. And the details of Gandhi's assassination in 1948 and the subsequent prosecution of his killers are extremely well researched.

In his introduction to the book, Chadha fleetingly suggests that Gandhi's significance to the liberation of India is overemphasized at the expense of his broader contributions to humanism, although the evidence presented later in the biography might indicate that the two are profoundly interconnected.

Making copious use of Gandhi's collected writings, Chadha presents a highly detailed portrait that lends new insight into one of the 20th century's most profound spiritual leaders.

From Kirkus Reviews

The first major biography in over 20 years of perhaps the most remarkable, and certainly one of the strangest men ever to exercise important political influence. Born in 1869, married, as was customary at that time, at the age of 13, sent over to London to become a barrister, Gandhi found his vocation when he went to South Africa to deal with a large case, and enlisted himself in the struggle against discrimination against Asians. There he learned many of the techniques he later used against the British, including satyagraha, the Force that is born of Truth and Love or non-violence. On his return to India in 1915, he criticized the indescribable filth of the country, the conspicuous wealth of the maharajahs, and the continuing discrimination against the untouchables. His campaigns against the conditions of the Indian workers and against the hated salt tax attracted huge support, and his strategy of noncooperation with the British landed him in jail. And yet for all his efforts, his fasts unto death to reconcile Hindu and Muslim, his continuing emphasis on nonviolence, when independence came in 1947, the partition of the country was accompanied by an orgy of blood-lettingand his own assassination at the hands of a Hindu extremist. Odd as he was, a small, unimposing man with no front teeth and spindly legs, a fanatical vegetarian who ceased marital relations with his wife at 36 and who believed that sex was only permissible for procreation, and whose knowledge of events outside India was limited, by the 1930s, as Nehru put it, Gandhi was India. It is perhaps the supreme example of the power of moral force in politics, and Chadha, an Indian businessman who has spent the past eight years researching and writing this book, lets the record, so far as possible, speak for itself. It is balanced, even-handed, and, like its subject, inspiring. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

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This book does what it claims to do, provide unbiased facts.
Amazon Customer
The basic story of how Gandhi led a non violent revolution to win independence for India from the British is often told.
MGN
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wishes to learn about the mahatma.
Pratip Mitra

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Pratip Mitra on March 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
After having read mahatma gandhi's autobiography which does not reach towards the later part of his life, i was keen on getting a complete account of his life. I must say that Chadha's book proved immensely satisfying and educative in this regard. The book is very thoroughly researched and its best attribute is that in it Chadha tries to stick to facts and takes up the role of the narrator rather than put in his own personal views. Invariably biographies make a picture of the person as the biographer chooses to think about him or her, but in reading this book one gets the feeling that Chadha has tried to consciously hold back his opinions and remain historically accurate. He leaves the judging to the reader. All the same the book is definitely not dull and dreary. It vividly brings out the great man's character along with his faults. It shows gandhi as human and definitely not a saint. It is when we realise this that we truly understand the greatness of the mahatma and the courage, strength of character and truth on which his life, movement and teachings were based. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wishes to learn about the mahatma.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Michael Rawdon on February 14, 2003
Format: Paperback
I purchased this book because I wanted to learn more about Gandhi and his influence, given that he's been regarded as the father of modern India, and was an inspiration for Martin Luther King Jr.
Gandhi: A Life is a densely packed book; I wouldn't say it's hard reading, but there's a huge amount of material here. Unfortunately, I felt disappointed by it since it does a good job of presenting the basic facts of Gandhi's life (carefully cross-checked for accuracy, the author assures us in his foreword), but goes no further than that. As such, it will teach the reader much about what Gandhi did and said, and about the state of India circa 1890-1948, but it will provide little insight into the man himself.
As one would expect, facts about Gandhi's later life are more readily available than about his earlier life. Despite this, the first third of the book feels the most rewarding, as several formative events provide profound insight into the man, including his vegetarianism and policies of non-violence. His gradual development from a shy young lawyer with stage fright into the powerful and dogmatic leader is carefully shown through his experiences in South Africa.
His return to India prior to 1920 and his ascension to the top of Indian politics, though, is not as successful. Just when we most need explanations and interpretations of Gandhi's behavior, Chadha fails us. Gandhi suddenly ceases to talk on Mondays, for some reason. He acquires what is essentially a cult of personality, but his own personality seems basically unlikeable, and the personalities of those around him are left sketchy. Chadha introduces supporting characters with a few paragraphs when they appear, but then takes as a given that their behavior will be understood.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
After having read Gandhi's "My experiments with truth" I found Chadha's book very helpful about the context surrounding Gandhi. This book almost reads like a Hypertext document in that Mr. Chadha takes you to the source of Gandhi's many inspirations e.g. Tolstoy. So a reader doesn't have to go to library and find Tolstoy, Ruskin, etc. Chadha also throws light on many persons who were followers of Gandhi in South Africa. Chadha also quotes from many friends and adversaries of Gandhi in South Africa. So this book gives lots of insight into Gandhi's past. This is indeed a very well researched book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By B. M. Chapman on October 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is the second biography of Gandhi that I have read in the last few years. Yogesh Chada's book being much longer than the previous biography that I read, I hoped to get more detail and more insight about that extraordinary man named Gandhi.

This much praise I can give to Chada: he did his homework. Gandhi: a Life is a non-stop littany of facts; overpowering, insightful, and boring. It sounds harsh for me to say that, because this book is an excellent account of Gandhi's life in terms of facts, but it simply has no narrative flow. And after 500 pages it becomes overwhelming. For so much reading, I took away far less from it than I would have supposed. This works very well if one is researching Gandhi and needs the details of certain events and episodes in India's independence movement, but the dryness of it all makes it hard to remember and appreciate the story that is being told.

Gandhi may be the subject of this book, but it is objective in the extreme; removed of life, sapped of interest. But it is factual, and if that is what you are looking for in a biography, then you have hit pay dirt with Chada's work. And for that I cannnot completely be upset with this book. It is effective in certain ways, but not in all the ways I was looking for.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By M. Swinney on July 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I guess I found myself wanting to like this book so much more than I actually did, due to the profound respect and reverence I have for the subject matter. A read-through of this book definitely proves educational, as Chadha seems to capture all the facts surrounding Gandhi's extraordinary life. What is lacking is the passion and enthusiasm that fails to bound the reader to Gahndi's profound beliefs in Ahimsa/non-violence and the Satyagraha/soul-force resistance movement. Some highlights of the book are the extensive retelling of Gahndi's initial efforts in South Africa, his personal family life, and the well-researched background behind his assassins and the assassination. Gahndi's life is such a motivational influential epic that it's a shame to not have a biography to match it. This is a good book to read to learn about the historical facts surrounding Gahndi's life, but if you are looking to get to know his spiritual side and get caught up in his inspiration, the biography has yet to be written. I just wasn't enthralled with the writing.
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