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Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2011: With Great Soul, Pulitzer Prize-winner Joseph Lelyveld accomplishes the difficult task of humanizing the fabled "Mahatma." Utterly unafraid of depicting Gandhi's less palatable tendencies--shameless self-promotion, inscrutable sexual mores, and an often narrow and ethnically specific application of his evolving political tenets--Lelyveld instead stands the man up against the myth. Comprehensively researched and confidently written, Lelyveld's exploration of Gandhi's politically formative years in South Africa, and the international profile he later secured in India, demonstrates laudable (if not unflinching) critical distance from his subject. It takes a brave biographer to pull this off respectfully. (See Christopher Hitchens’s book on Mother Theresa for a contrary and maudlin example.) Lelyveld is up to the job, delivering an ultimately indispensable take on the flesh-and-blood man who may have been his own best hagiographer. Everyone with an interest in Gandhi--from incurable skeptics to unabashed devotees--should find much to learn from one of the year’s best biographies to date. --Jason Kirk
In this rigorous biography of India's beloved political and spiritual leader, Lelyveld (Move Your Shadow) offers an unexpected perspective on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869–1948), one that focuses more on his failures and vexations than triumphs. Gandhi dreamed of Hindu-Muslim solidarity in a united, autonomous India (a hope dashed with the 1947 partition that split off Pakistan); acceptance of lower castes by upper-caste Hindus (still only partially accomplished); an economy built around cottage industries in self-sufficient villages (a quixotic fantasy). This program proved far more difficult than evicting the British, Lelyveld notes, and earned the Mahatma hatred—and, finally, assassination—in an India riven by sectarian animosity and caste prejudice. Lelyveld pairs a sympathetic but critical analysis of Gandhi's politics with a vivid portrait of the Mahatma's charismatic strangeness: his makeover from business-suited, English-educated upper-caste lawyer to loincloth-clad sage; his odd diet and abhorrence of sex; his strained family life. A stirring, evenhanded account that relates the failure of Gandhi's politics of saintliness while attesting to its enduring power. Photos. (Mar.)
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Rajmohan Gandhi has written perfect review for this work:
Even those who have read the book should go over it. Read more
Written by someone that does not understand Gandhi. Avoid this book. Waste of time and misleading. Read "the story of my experiments with truth" instead.Published 20 months ago by RocketSingh
First of all, I have read 1000s of pages on Gandhi from a wide range of sources. And I have tried many many times to slog thru this recent 'contribution' to Gandhi literature and... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Nefesh Achas
As other reviewers have pointed out, this is a poorly organized book, and you have to know a lot about Gandhi to get much out of it. Read morePublished 22 months ago by toronto
The facts about Gandhi's life are really no mystery to those that need to know. Gandhi was and remains an enigma. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Waqar H. Rizvi
A more apt title for this book: Hating on Gandhi: One Man's Quest to Reverse Every Nice Thought You've Ever Had about the Mahatma. Read morePublished on May 23, 2013 by BT Invictus
Saint or very shrewd political manipulator?
A carefully researched book, of value to historians and especially of interest to South Africans
When you hear the name Mahatma Gandhi you think of the peace activist and pacifist. I did not know he spent another life time in South Africa which shaped his world view. Read morePublished on April 18, 2013 by Dr. Wilson Trivino
If you're already grounded in the narrative chronology of Gandhi's life, this is an excellent book to read second to get a critical analysis of particular episodes.Published on April 12, 2013 by Samuel Diener