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Gandhi: An Autobiography - The Story of My Experiments With Truth Paperback – November 1, 1993
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Gandhi's nonviolent struggles in South Africa and India had already brought him to such a level of notoriety, adulation, and controversy that when asked to write an autobiography midway through his career, he took it as an opportunity to explain himself. Although accepting of his status as a great innovator in the struggle against racism, violence, and, just then, colonialism, Gandhi feared that enthusiasm for his ideas tended to exceed a deeper understanding. He says that he was after truth rooted in devotion to God and attributed the turning points, successes, and challenges in his life to the will of God. His attempts to get closer to this divine power led him to seek purity through simple living, dietary practices (he called himself a fruitarian), celibacy, and ahimsa, a life without violence. It is in this sense that he calls his book The Story of My Experiments with Truth, offering it also as a reference for those who would follow in his footsteps. A reader expecting a complete accounting of his actions, however, will be sorely disappointed.
Although Gandhi presents his episodes chronologically, he happily leaves wide gaps, such as the entire satyagraha struggle in South Africa, for which he refers the reader to another of his books. And writing for his contemporaries, he takes it for granted that the reader is familiar with the major events of his life and of the political milieu of early 20th-century India. For the objective story, try Yogesh Chadha's Gandhi: A Life. For the inner world of a man held as a criminal by the British, a hero by Muslims, and a holy man by Hindus, look no further than these experiments. --Brian Bruya
“Here is an autobiography more captivating than fiction and more stimulating than romantic adventure. It is the most revealing study of the human soul that I have ever read.”
—The Christian Century
“An absorbing book that stands alone in frankness and plain honesty...Its place among the classics of autobiography cannot be in doubt.”
—The New Statesman
“An amazingly frank self-revelation of the greatest and humblest modern man.”
“It is...only by reading the whole long and detailed day-by-day record that readers can sense the magic of Gandhi’s being and discover him fully.”
“(Gandhi’s) autobiography remains invaluable for its account of the shaping of a new path to collective resistance to injustice.”
—From the foreword by Sissela Bok
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Top customer reviews
There are several reasons for the shortcomings.
First, probably due to the special kind of English spoken in India, there are too many words and terms which although not incorrect, yet used in ways most readers living in the New World find unusual, if not incomprehensible.
A second problem is the abundance of gravely misspelled words. Some of them are amusing as when he feels rewarded having so many devoted FIENDS supporting him (or perhaps he really meant that???) others are merely irritating. Several times I found myself hunting the dictionary for a word I never heard before, only to find that it was a common English word misspelled so creatively it could no longer be recognized.
A third objection is the lack of footnotes. The text is packed with terms used in India and very likely clear enough to locals, but not to westerners. The Kindle dictionary was also clueless for about half of the terms, although halfway through, there was some lame attempt to give translations and the English term was given in parentheses, but it came too late and was not nearly adequate. This mystery also covers the dozens and dozens of names mentioned, but I wager to say that 99% of readers (save perhaps the British) are not familiar who they are.
Did I finish reading the book? Of course I did, because it was too good to miss. But it was a very frustrating experience, because what am I to do with such sentences: “Even for itself we may not so certain things.” The trouble is not that I lifted the example out of the context; the trouble is that it makes no sense. And an even greater problem is that this example is not a lone instance, but such as this appears far too often, preventing troublefree reading. By all means read it,but buy the hardback or paperback version.
But, this book was just plain hard to read. The style was more like reading legislation than reading a life story. That probably makes sense, given Gandhi's educational training. This style might work for a short, thoughtful treatise on a specific topic. But, 500+ pages in this style was just too much.
I finally did get through the book. I would like to say that it was worth it, to get to know Gandhi better. And, that might be true if this book was the only way to get to know Gandhi, but it's not. There are many other sources to learn about him. I think it would be better to chose one of the others.
Still, his determination and fight for Indians to be treated equally was inspirational. His peaceful protests are what eventually inspired Martin Luther King and, to a point, Nelson Mandela, fight for the rights of blacks in America (King) and South Africa (Mandela). So for that, and for refusing to accept the racist status quo for his people, Gandhi was an inspiration.