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Gandhi Before India Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 15, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1St Edition edition (April 15, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385532296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385532297
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,719 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* For many Westerners, the mention of Gandhi evokes stock images of the frail, scantily dressed Indian spouting tomes about peace and brotherhood while leading a noble, nonviolent struggle for Indian independence. Relatively few realize that Gandhi spent decades living outside of the subcontinent, in Britain and especially in South Africa. Guha, who has taught courses on Gandhi at Stanford and Yale, covers his life from his birth in British India, in 1869, up to his departure from South Africa and return to India in 1915. There is much that is familiar here, including Gandhi’s asceticism, his passion for justice, and his gift for savvy political maneuvering. But Guha’s account is full of surprises. In Britain, as a young barrister, Gandhi moved freely with a liberal and racially diverse crowd and proudly viewed himself as a “citizen of the Empire” while dressing stylishly. In South Africa, the rigid racial divisions shocked him, and it was here that he developed the tactics that he employed so effectively later in India. This is an outstanding opening volume of a planned two-volume biography of one of the most widely revered but often misunderstood figures in world history. --Jay Freeman

Review

“Remarkable. . . . [A] moving portrait.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Guha is a brilliant historian who combines the gift of a storyteller, the discipline of an academic and the critical ability of seeing Gandhi as a fascinating human being, by not placing him on a pedestal. . . . [He] has re-created the past by connecting scattered dots . . . to weave a rich tapestry.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Striking. . . . Guha ably shows, for all that Gandhi influenced events in South Africa, it was he who experienced the greater change.” —The Economist

“Deeply contextualized, dexterously researched, and judiciously written, this deserves to become the landmark biography of the early Gandhi.” —Maya Jasanoff, New Republic

“Fascinating. . . . A biography with a remarkable ear for the resonances of Gandhi’s work and time—for the fan-mail and hate-mail; for overheard disagreements with family and colleagues; for his exchanges with political acquaintances, including his enemies. . . . As exhaustively researched a biography of the African Gandhi as we will have for some time.” —The Independent (London)

“[A] magisterial study. . . . Guha summarizes the traits of Gandhi’s character and the stages during the first half of his life that prepared him for the much more difficult journey he would undertake once he returned to India. . . . I was rewarded beyond all of my expectations [by Gandhi Before India].” —Charles R. Larson, Counterpunch

“Substantial enough to be comprehensive, yet concise enough to be approachable by the general reader. . . . Sharp, insightful, balanced and impeccably researched.” —Alex von Tunzelmann, The Times (London)

“A work of vivid social history as well as biography. . . . One of the surprises in Gandhi Before India is just how much fresh material it contains. Guha has a gift for tracking down obscure letters and newspaper reports and patching them together to make history come alive.” —Patrick French, The Guardian (London)

“Fascinating. . . . [Gandhi Before India] reveals how an impossibly shy young man, who donned top hat and tails as a student at Inner Temple, transformed himself into Churchill’s ‘half-naked fakir,’ dedicated to his spinning wheel while simultaneously challenging the might of the Empire.” —The Sunday Times (London)

“The portrait offered in historian Ramachandra Guha’s biography is of Gandhi as a human being, not just a hero.” —Financial Times

Gandhi Before India should be required reading for the student of contemporary affairs. . . . Guha’s carefully rendered observations about class, religion, and ethnicity—how they divide people and how they can be bridged by common concerns and simple decency—are the heart of this book. . . . Remarkable.” —The Christian Science Monitor

“A magisterial history. . . . In Ramachandra Guha, a great man has found a great biographer, a wise, persistent and elegant historian who has done justice to perhaps his nation’s greatest story. . . . One senses, in the author’s approach, something of Gandhi’s own intensity and rigour. . . . [The] book never ceases to inform and intrigue.” —Sydney Morning Herald

“What sets [Gandhi Before India] apart from other recent biographies . . . is Guha’s resolutely non-scurrilous perspective. . . . What emerges in the end, with the slow magic of a film being developed in an old fashioned dark room, is a sharp picture of the intellectual growth of a remarkable man.” —The Hindustan Times (India)

“Many will come to this biography wanting to know more about Gandhi himself. . . . Guha relates all this wonderfully. His book is clearly a labour of love, though not of uncritical infatuation. What distinguishes it is the breadth of the context—Indian, British and South African. Guha marshals his material sensitively and empathetically in order to give shape, colour and depth to the life of this saint-like figure.” —Bernard Porter, The Literary Review

“Excellent and exhaustive. . . . Guha has done heroic work in reconstructing this period of Gandhi’s life ... Gandhi emerges here as a fascinatingly complicated and contradictory figure . . . rich and absorbing, it will doubtless serve as the fundamental portrait of Gandhi for many years to come.” —The Sunday Business Post (Ireland)

“Guha is India’s best-known historian, who marshals his wide scholarship in contemporary and modern history with a raconteur’s lucid felicity.” —DNA Mumbai

Customer Reviews

This book is a very good easy to read.
Amazon Customer
The author uses both standard well known sources about Gandhi, and many local contemporary sources to paint a detailed picture of him.
Kate Stout
The book traces the life of Gandhi from his childhood, to his life in South Africa and his ultimate return to India.
silhouette_of_enchantment

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Raghu Nathan on April 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I was hesitant to buy this book because I was skeptical as to what more that is new can be written about Mahatma Gandhi. After all, the Govt of India had published 100 volumes of his collected works after nearly 40 years of sustained effort in assembling them. Still, the title kindled my interest because I realized that I know little about Gandhi's first 45 years of life, which were spent substantially outside India. In fact, for most of us in India, the window into Gandhi's life before he came back to India, was provided only by Richard Attenborough's film 'Gandhi'. As I finished reading this book, I am amazed that Dr.Guha is able to show us so much about Gandhi's life that I have been completely unaware of. The book shows how Gandhi was born a Gujarathi bania, grew up in Gujarat with all the prejudices and quirks of his caste and gradually transformed himself into a hero in the eyes of the larger world through his tireless struggles in politics, spirituality and practice of non-violent, passive resistance to racial injustice in South Africa. Many of us in India have the image of Gandhi as one who was born a Mahatma, lived as a Mahatma and died as THE Mahatma. This book shows that Gandhi was actually a work in progress and how South Africa shaped him into becoming the man that he was to become later in the eyes of the world.

I was broadly conversant with Gandhi's struggles in the period 1893-1914 for the civil and political rights of Indians in South africa and his approach to working within the British empire and that of his belief in gradual rather than revolutionary change. But what I learnt new from this book was that in this African endeavour, there was deep and passionate participation from Tamils, Parsees, Muslims, Christians, European Jews, and the Chinese.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Joan C. Scott VINE VOICE on April 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
By his own account, for Gandhi Before India Ramachandra Guha was able to consult quite a bit of Gandhi's correspondence that had not been included in the compendium of "all" his correspondence. I have no reason to doubt that. His research appears impeccable.

Guha sees Gandhi as a person with flaws as well as virtues. He presents to us a real person in the process of growth. This is also a big plus for this book.

Given that it presents a lot with which I am not familiar both about one of India's subcultures and about Gandhi, himself, the book is surprisingly quite readable.

Overall, I can only say that this book is an impressive achievement which makes me interested to read more by this author!
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By M. Satyanarayana on October 30, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The subject of biography of Mahatma in Africa is very interesting and at many events is exciting - when you think of the Tranval world; cases Gandhi was arguing; the background to and execution of, satyagraha. The life has all material - better than Boswell's Johnson.

Unfortunately, Mr Guha presents a dry history book chronologically listing events one after the other. After reading the book, one is left with a feeling of jumble of events and dates - there is no feeling of participation mentally of the events unfolding in Natal & Transval. Mr. Guha collected lot of material, put in lot of effort but could not present it in an interesting and involving fashion.

A book of this nature should transport the reader to the relevant time; make him feel mentally that he is part of events unfolding in Natal & Transval. That is where Mr. Guha fails. I think, he should have joined hands with a good story teller - that could have made the book very interesting, involving and most read. Some thing like "Man Before Mahatma". Mr Guha should seriously consider rewriting this book. This can be a wonderful book - the subject has all material that can put a reader on edge with interest. If written right, it will be a book every Indian and every Western will read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jijnasu Forever VINE VOICE on April 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
With tomes of dissertations and books written on Gandhi, it is always difficult to come up with a new lens to rediscover the personality that shaped much of the strategies in modern world's political movements. Most authors adopt an approach to explain how Gandhi influenced India (the world, in general). and focus less on how the world shaped Gandhi. Guha does a masterful job in a blended approach of employing Gandhi both as a protagonist and a mere witness to prevalent social-economic-political-religious circumstances. In that nuanced approach, Guha is able to discover the unique roles non-Indians have played in the early shaping of Gandhi's philosophies, moral compass, and the urge to fight injustice within the system.

Some narratives (especially the ones I read growing up in India) tend to portray Westerners as mostly of the same ilk as the infamous General Dyre. But the narrative around Gandhi in England for studies portray an entirely different picture; almost to the extent that one could argue England really didn't know what the English were doing once they were out of England - the general tolerance and often camaraderie (as in vegetarian society, for example) that Gandhi experienced in his college days is in stark contrast to how the English raj was perceived. That contrast is educational, a reader also is able to witness the gradual degeneration of the "benevolence" of the English rulers in all colonies. The social tensions within these colonies, the debate on immigrants (and Indians' role in shaping that discourse via non-violent ways), and the general apathy that was shown towards immigrants and other races in South Africa is a story that is often unsaid in the context of Gandhi. Those sections alone are worth this book.
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