Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World (Signet Classics)
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72 of 74 people found the following review helpful
The perfect introduction. This is the perfect book for someone who wants to learn the essentials about the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi without having to wade through some of the larger books that have been written. This one is under 200 pages, and is laid out in three easy to read sections (From Birth To Greatness - Gandhi In India - Victory and Tragedy). Fischer does not bog down into political minutiae, post-assassination trial stuff, or hair-splitting Gandhi-isms (on this latter point for instance, Gandhi's own autobiography devotes four consecutive chapters to his internal agony over whether or not to include goat's milk in his vegetarian diet)! Fischer's book is more of an OVERVIEW of the profound world-shaking life that was Gandhi. Yet it is immensely informative, and well-paced. The author personally met with Gandhi in 1942 and again in '46, and his book shows that he had a wonderful understanding of the Mahatma's faith and convictions. Those who want to know more about Gandhi should, however, go on to read the autobiography (subtitled "The Story of My Experiments With Truth") and also Yogesh Chadha's "Gandhi: A Life".
The book ends abruptly with the three shots, the smile fading from Gandhi's face, and his final words on earth "Oh God."
"His legacy is courage, his lesson truth, his weapon love.
His life is his monument.
He now belongs to mankind."
We turn the page, and hope that something is there... but it isn't. The world since, has not seen anyone like Gandhi.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2001
This is one of the best biographies I've ever read, in part because of the enormous charisma of the subject and in equal part because of the obvious respect and affection with which he is treated by his biographer, Louis Fischer. Gandhi's life and message can be a life-changing experience for one willing to think about his search for Truth, and his unwillingness to compromise even in the face of seemingly insurmountable opposition.
When I decided to read up on Ghandi's life, I was confronted with many many volumes. I didn't know which to choose, so I bought several, in hopes that at least one would be a good choice. I needn't have worried. This particular volume is small and thin, and I selected it in part because of its size - a thicker volume on a man I knew nothing about would have been too intimidating for a first exposure. What a wonderful surprise! Fischer's story of Gandhi's life was engaging from the first few paragraphs and riveting through Gandhi's last utterance.
Fischer does not analyze very much - this is not a history of Gandhi's influence on India and the wider world; rather, it is the personal story of a man who touched lives. Mohandas Gandhi is presented in the context of his world rather than Gandhi's world being presented in the context of him. To me, that creates a more approachable man, one whose life can be emulated, not just revered. This is a must-read with the potential to become a must-do, or at least a must-think. Highly recommended.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2000
Written by a foreign correspondant and author of many books on world affairs, this book is the best place to begin understanding the life of Gandhi. I used it to supplement the Oscar-winning film and found that the two complemented each other very well. It is a short book. In a matter of hours the reader will not only be introduced to the events of Gandhi's life and of the Indian independance movement, but she will also get inside the man. Fischer carefully considers Gandhi's religious convictions and experiences and thereby tries to explain Gandhi's incredible moral authority, both during his lifetime, and beyond. If you wonder why so many people consider Gandhi the most influential human being of the 20th century, read this book. And then be prepared to reexamine your own life. What do I value? Why? What is my purpose in life? What does it mean to be a just, compassionate, and merciful human being? Is a violent response to evil ever justifiable? Reading this inexpensive, 200-page paperback will pay rich dividends.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2004
I find it a little odd that I just wrote in the title that people can be 'fans' of Gandhi. Like he is a rock star or famous model. But in essence that is what most people who admire influential people are. And I admit that I am a fan of Gandhi.
Being such I decided it was time to learn something about him that was not a movie (though the movie is very good; truncated but good) or a magazine article or some old handout from high school I found in a dark corner of my closet. So I chose Louis Fischer's short little biography. And I am very satisfied.
Mr. Fischer does not make any excuses for being a fan of Gandhi either. Like another biographer of Gandhi mentioned, it seems everybody whoever saw Gandhi and spoke to him felt the overwhelming need to write something, preferably a biography, of him. Mr. Fischer met Gandhi twice, stayed in his Ashram for a week as a guest, and he documents it in this biography.
I fear I will sound repetitive with my biography reviews, but once again this is a great introduction to Gandhi. Just over 200 pages, full of important details, but never drowning in the complications of them (though it gets close to such when dealing with the creation of Pakistan, which is admittedly complicated and difficult to explain).
Louise Fischer writes with emotion. This is not a straightforward academic account of the life and times of Gandhi, but a thank you letter to the spirit and power that Gandhi was. For one rare moment I let the emotion sway me as Gandhi's death was recounted and I felt a very rare sympathy that I have rarely ever experienced with the written word; a remarkable achievement.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2000
Wow, what a info packed book. When choosing the book i was skeptical because i thought it would be really boring. But after I learned a little bit about him in History class I decided I would read it. To read this book you needed a lot of patience and you had to really be into it. At some times it got boring, but reading about all of the things he did and the struggles he went through for peace just amazed me. Like when he decided to boycott British goods, schools, and jobs. After doing that he got thrown in jail. Most people would have given up then, but that was just near the start of what had to come. He also did a lot of fasts to show peace and not violence. This book went into great detail talking about all of these topics. This book also showed a few pictures of Gandhi which helped you get a visual image while you are reading the book. So overall i give this book a 4 star rating because it was jam packed with great info and detail.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2000
I read this book for a history class and although it contained good information about Gandhi, his life, and the steps he took to try to redeem his country and his people, it has a great deal of technical information and can be hard to follow at times. A fairly good knowledge of the political policies and figures in India, Africa, and Britain during the first half of the twentieth century would make the book much easier to read. I would not recommend this book for a casual reading.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2001
Through this book Louis Fischer successfully presents the Mahatma of India to the English speaking world at large and especially to the Americans.The soul of Mahatma Gandhi is well captured here in words. The author takes pains to elaborate the political movements in Britain, the varied struggles of Indians in South Africa and the complexities of the socio-political situation in India in order to paint an accurate picture of one of the most remarkable human beings of the 20th century. The philosophy and witness of this Indian saint shall continue to influence and enrich the lives of millions in the years to come and Fischer's deeply moving story of his struggles shall go down into history as a worthy testimony to his life and message.
The book does inevitably contain Indian words and concepts, which could stand in the way of making it a leisurely reading. But the author has a great advantage since he has a familiarity with the Indian situation and a personal acquaintence with Gandhi himself. Anyone who is intereested in working for the advancement of humanity should learn about Gandhi and this is the book to begin with.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Fischer's recount of Gandhi's life does a satisfactory job of providing facts and commentary on the Father of Modern India. Though this book may seem more approachable, however, because it is considerably shorter than several other biographies (and indeed Gandhi's autobiography), the facts of Gandhi's life and the Indian Nationalism movement are presented anachronistically and often without sufficient context. Thus it is often difficult to have a complete understanding of where, when, how, and to whom Gandhi was applying his peaceful resistance techniques.

Notwithstanding Fischer does an excellent job of elucidating Gandhi's worldview and the religious implications behind Gandhi's contrubitions to the shaping of 20th-century world history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I read this book while in college and was so impressed that the editors allow Gandhi's own words to represent his philosophy of non-violence and peace. It's very well organized by chapters and has good commentary throughout. This is a great introduction to Gandhi and his impact in Asia and the world.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon January 8, 2013
Author Louis Fisher wrote in the first chapter of this 1954 book, "When he died, Gandhi was what he had always been: a private citizen without wealth, property, title, official position, academic distinction, or scientific achievement. Yet the chiefs of all governments, except of the Soviet government, and the heads of all religions paid homage to the thin brown man of seventy-eight in a loincloth... Men and women knew or felt, that when Gandhi fell by the assassin's three bullets that the conscience of mankind had been left without a spokesman. Humanity was impoverished because a poor man had died." (Pg. 7-8)

When being sentenced by an English judge to prison, the judge said, "The law is no respecter of persons... Nevertheless it will be impossible to ignore the fact that you are in a different category from any person I have ever tried or am likely to have to try. It would be impossible to ignore the fact that, in the eyes of millions of your countrymen, you are a great patriot and a great leader. Even those who differ from you in politics look upon you as a man of high ideals and of noble and even saintly life." Fisher adds, "This was not the last time the British arrested and imprisoned Gandhi. But it was the last time they tried him." (Pg. 73)

Fisher records, "Prophet of nonviolence, he nevertheless declared that 'where there is a choice between cowardice and violence, I would choose violence,' for cowardice reduces a man's self-respect and hence his stauture." (Pg. 89) Of the famous Salt March, Fisher observes, "Had Gandhi gone by train or automobile to make salt, the effect would have been considerable. But to walk two hundred and forty-one miles in twenty-four days and rivet the attention of all India... and then to pick up a palmful of salt in publicized defiance of a mighty government, that required imagination, dignity, and the sense of showmanship of a great artist." (Pg. 99)

After the epochal nonviolent protest at the Dharsana Salt Works---where four hundred policemen beat senseless row after row of nonresisting protesters---Fisher says, "India was now free. Legally, technically, nothing changed. India was still a British colony. But there was a difference and Rabindrath Tagore explained it... 'Europe has completely lost her former moral prestige in Asia. She is no longer regarded as the champion throughout the world of fair dealing and the exponent of high principle, but the upholder of Western race supremacy and the exploiter of those outside her borders.'... When the Indians allowed themselves to be beaten with batons and rifle butts and did not cringe they showed that England was powerless and India invincible. The rest was merely a matter of time." (Pg. 102)

He observes, "In the end Gandhi embraced Christ but rejected Christianity... 'If then I had to face only the Sermon on the Mount and my own interpretation if it,' he declared, 'I should not hesitate to say, 'Oh, yes, I am a Christian.' ... But negatively I can tell you that much of what passes as Christianity is a negation of the Sermon on the Mount.'" (Pg. 131)

Gandhi was one of the most amazing figures in all of modern history, and this book is a marvelous telling of his story.
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