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Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914-1948 Paperback – Illustrated, October 22, 2019
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“Wise, graceful and entertaining. . . . Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914-1948 will not be bettered, and it is essential reading even for those who do not think of themselves as India buffs, because Gandhi is a maker of our whole modern world.” —Ferdinand Mount, The Wall Street Journal
“A comprehensive account of the most remarkable figure of the past century.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“An important biography. . . . Guha admires Gandhi’s achievements, but does not gloss over the man’s flaws.” —The New York Times
“Expertly chronicled.” —The Washington Post
“Massive, meticulous, and engrossing.” —The Times Literary Supplement
“Deeply affecting. . . . A rendering of the subject in such fullness that the reader feels himself wrestling directly with the protagonist, his time, and his ideas. . . . Guha’s biography builds with perfect tone and economy of expression towards its moving conclusion.” —Financial Times
“[A] monumental biography.” —Edward Glaeser, The Wall Street Journal
“The book’s details of Gandhi’s life help the reader comprehend how he influenced the world.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“Drawing from hundreds of sources, including some never before available to historians, Guha presents a nuanced portrait of a brilliant spiritual and political leader with egalitarian principles and a vision for a nonsectarian India. . . . Readers will be richly reward.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“Magnificent.” —The American Interest
“A magisterial account of a compassionate man. . . . The author skillfully traces the evolution of Gandhi’s political beliefs. . . . He conveys Gandhi’s playfulness as well as his intellect.” —The Economist
“Dramatic and detailed. . . . [The] second and final volume of Guha’s huge, definitive biography of Mahatma Gandhi draws on every imaginable source.” —Foreign Affairs
“A thoroughly researched and well-written account and a faithful chronicle.” —New Statesman
“Guha mines newly discovered archival material to produce a portrait of the Indian leader that is both panoramic in scope and surprisingly intimate, both admiring of Gandhi and cognizant of his flaws. . . . Incisively written, this is a landmark account of Gandhi’s engagement with the world he would transform forever.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“This masterly assessment should serve for several generations, and for non-Indians as well.” —The Literary Review
“Superb. On nearly every page, Guha offers evidence why Gandhi remains relevant in the world 70 years after his death.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The most exhaustive account yet of Gandhi’s temporal and spiritual crusades. A vivid and absorbing read. . . . Guha is as dogged a researcher as Gandhi was an agitator.” —The Sunday Times (London)
About the Author
- Item Weight : 2.29 pounds
- Paperback : 1120 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0307474798
- ISBN-13 : 978-0307474797
- Dimensions : 5.16 x 2.2 x 7.95 inches
- Publisher : Vintage; Illustrated edition (October 22, 2019)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #645,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Gandhi's four interconnecting principles were to gain Indian independence, promote Hindu-Muslim unity, end untouchability, and achieve economic self reliance. To meet these goals Gandhi staged highly effective forms of political protest such as his march to the sea (in defiance of the British salt tax) and famed fasts (to stop interfaith violence). In the end foreign rule was overcome, but he was unable to prevent mass killings and partition of the subcontinent. His assassination by Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse would foretell of future troubles.
Guha is an unabashed admirer of Gandhi, if not entirely uncritical of all he did. He sees Gandhi as the foremost figure in modern Indian history, and a highly influential figure across the world stage. This is not a difficult argument to make, and Guha does it with great conviction. The writing is fluid and unhindered by an overly academic style. The most obvious critique of his analysis is the representation of Gandhi as a liberal or even a radical. Gandhi was a reformer in many areas, but in most cases he was guided by conservative values and religious beliefs.
Gandhi's rejection of western industrialism and embrace of agrarian decentralization now seem quaint and rooted in the 19th century. He was greatly influenced by Tolstoy's faith based pacifism, anti-colonialism and opposition to private land ownership. Homespun cloth and village councils were a challenge to British economic and political repression, but would not be the way of the future. In the debate with Ambedkar over the untouchables, Guha makes a different case than Arundhati Roy, who sees Gandhi as a reactionary on caste issues.
Guha covers Gandhi's private life also, although somewhat superficially. In terms of an interesting psychological subject Gandhi ranks near the top. Oddly he appears two dimensional and conventional in this portrait. Guha doesn't shy away from controversial aspects of Gandhi's celibacy experiments such as sleeping naked with teenage relatives to test his purity. As with an extramarital dalliance with feminist Saraladevi Chaudhurani Guha concludes nothing untoward occurred. Gandhi, both man and milieu, seem distant and difficult to fathom.
Ultimately this book could have benefited from a shorter format and a more incisive look at Gandhi the politician. Guha proposes Gandhi as an antidote to the fundamentalism and intolerance that has challenged India since the birth of the republic. In doing so he sacrifices a level of insight into the traditionalist worldview Gandhi used to mobilize the rural masses. Although Guha notes the urban and middle class makeup of other nationalist and revolutionary groups, he doesn't see this as a significant lens to examine the social context of Gandhi's movement.
The book, however, is not a glorification - in fact, the balanced approach (clearly detailing the evolution of moral, religious and what now seems as completely strange beliefs) amplifies a reader's admiration of Gandhi's pursuit of self-improvement while simultaneously engaged in leading millions to self-rule.
Perhaps the biggest contribution of this biography is 2 chapters in the first third of the book that provides a more detailed look at the personal evolution of Gandhi - particularly his views on religion and what one can glean from his own reactions to his serialized autobiography. The sections that discuss the environment leading to the independence, particularly the deepening sense of separatism and selfishness of leaders arguing for Pakistan will sadden anyone aware of the millions of lives lost and displaced in the partition. On a macro level, this is a book that is an excellent case study on political strategy - revolution v/s reactionary v/s incremental pragmatism.
The factual narrative of each of the key events in each year, every key meeting, correspondence, fast, march, arrest, etc is in itself a fascinating and informative read. However, one also gets to appreciate the political genius of Gandhi (opportunism, perhaps in some cases and maybe even luck - such as Tilak's early death), organizational (Congress) machinations, and various tactics leaders adopt jostling for better positions in the party's platform. The genesis and crystallization of the Hindu-Muslim relation (or lack of it) that has defined much of the subcontinent's modern history is also clearly captured in this biography - albeit from the vantage point from Gandhi. Gandhi's attempts in forging (or forcing his view of amity) a Hindu-Muslim unity while challenging some of the then-systemic biases within Hinduism is also an informative read and provides a much richer context to appreciate and judge the current day politics. The range of reactions from various key leaders to Gandhi's efforts can still be seen in almost any discussion of the politics in the sub-continent.
Just as in the first part of the biography, one gets to learn more about the personal side of Gandhi - particularly his relationship with his sons and wife, a bizarre experiment involving his grand-niece , and views on sexuality (none of which are candidates to deify Gandhi as a role model in family life). It is this astounding dichotomy of fighting for freedom for the masses but keeping the ones devoted to him in strict "Law Giver" mode that will puzzle readers. A reader also learns about the key roles of some of Gandhi's assistants and a host of influential leaders from various backgrounds that unfortunately never made it through popular recounting of India's independence struggle).
For the casual reader of Indian history, the wide cast of characters and their import, will be difficult to follow along -
However, as a remarkable study of an individuals evolution (moral, philosophical, political) and as a narrative on the most formative years of India, this biography is a must-read.
Top reviews from other countries
Gandhi produced and published so far.
It transports you to another time. Well balanced word by word analysis of Gandhi's letters, his conversations and his speeches as if the man inside Gandhi is living with you. His strengths and his weaknesses revealing his human side are richly presented and how he was seen was by his contemporaries. This makes it immensely readable. Brilliant narrative lets you visualize the events like an epic cinema that is being unfolded before you!
There is, in fact, a concern that once the books finishes, my time with him would also end. Mao Tzu had said good traveler is not intent on arrival. It is the same with this book. Once you are immersed in it you no longer would want this book to come to end.
I wish every Indian could read this magnificent book on the greatest man of the last century.
Probably it was the flicker got lighted up when i was reading his selected works or maybe when i was encountered by his grandson's book "why gandhi still matters",and certainly by coming across a statement made by P.Sainath when he called Gandhi the most prolific journalist,India ever had.
Guha is one of my most favorite writers and despite being an ardent Nehruvian adherent i never knew that he was also a devout Gandhi scholar,except through his speeches some years ago.
This work is unique in the sense that it can be comprehended also by a layman despite being a scholarly work.Inspite of providing a detailed review it would be better to put out a comparative analysis of this book from other biographies of Gandhi.
The discussion over Nehru report and Gandhi's divergences over the issue had potential then and now founding resonance in postmodernist school of thought.
Tharoor while discussing on limitations of Gandhi in last chapters of his famous book on British India,fails to explore the background of the whole case of 2nd world war and relevance of non violence.Guha on the other hand admitting limitations of non violence in that milieu,explores the possiblities that lay within the individuals like Bonhoeffer to ignite the flame if they might have been alive.
Recent happenings in Malawi and sometimes ago in Rhodes university clearly demonstrates the cult of protectionism which is overshadowing us in current zeitgeist and the support it has got from some fringe groups.But the work demolishes the fact that Gandhi was in his whole life averse to the African race.
It indeed shows how much africans were enamoured,enchanted and inspired by his message of satyagraha.
His critique of the brutalities of whites in zulu rebellion,support to the Thurmans,the inspiration he gave to future african nationalists like Kenyans Zomo kenyatta,Zambian Kenneth kaunda clearly demonstrates this fact.
Sceptics have raised questions on the relative success or failure of quit india movement.To get the picture of that deep psychological impact that Gandhism held over Indians then one must study "Kanthapura",which better elucidates this thing in an emotional way.
Gandhi's preference to live in a bhangi colony despite being offered a mansion in Delhi during cabinet mission days and his insistence to maintain permanently these services of electricity and water even after his leaving to G.D.Birla shows his empathy towards his countrymen which modern day politicians lack to a great extent.
Moreover by elucidating the differences,relevance and possibilities of his and ambedkar 's point of views are explicated in a well manner in this work.
The question now arises what set the person different from the rest of the prominent leaders of his time and whats the relevance of his ideas in today's world.
The answer to the former question lies in the fact that the life of this man was like an open book.People anywhere in the world whether it was Agatha harrison,charlie Andrews,or an unknown enquirer from banaras could ask him on questions ranging from socialism,satyagraha,non violence,love marriages,celibacy and on controlling lustful thoughts too.The point is where could you find such a leader who responds you in a way much more closer than your father?
The latter is a case bit prolonged one.
The offshoots of Gandhism are myriad.
Ranging from environmentalism,global peace,religious harmony,interfaith dialogue and so on ad infinitum.
But the most poignant is the fact that todays consumptionist spirituality thats taking its roots in India,specially where celebrity gurus are making profit of it.
The fetish of ‘efficiency’, the reckless speed of contemporary living, the intoxication with conspicuous consumption, the ‘performance anxiety’ in a hyper-competitive ethos of social-Darwinism, the growing denaturalisation of existence with the heavy armours of privilege and status, and a sense of void, despite the euphoria of ‘success’ – the class I am referring to is living this hollow existence with inner emptiness and a sense of ‘guilt’.
They have invested and counted on this class which is focussed solely on self contemplation and of this class only Gandhi was critical about.
And its the same class which was the subject of humour in harishankar parsai s works.
Compare it with the great work done by Natwar Thakkar in Nagaland who was a lifelong Gandhian and whom the people of that insurgency hit state deeply admire.
That,indeed that is the power of Gandhi.