- Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 3, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307389952
- ISBN-13: 978-0307389954
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 52 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,037,908 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India Paperback – April 3, 2012
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“A revelation. . . . Lelyveld has restored human depth to the Mahatma.”
—Hari Kunzru, The New York Times
“Lelyveld shows us Gandhi in tight close-up, and he places the man in various frames of reference—social, political and religious—that allow us to understand and appreciate him not as a plaster saint but as a flesh-and-blood human who wrote himself into history, and not only because of his shimmering vision of a more perfect world but also because of his sheer force of will.”
—Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angeles Times
“Lelyveld brings . . . an intimate knowledge based on his years as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times in both South Africa and India and the exhaustive research he conducted with a rare and finely balanced sympathy. . . . The picture that emerges is of someone intensely human, with all the defects and weaknesses that suggests, but also a visionary with a profound social conscience and courage who gave the world a model for nonviolent revolution that is still inspiring.”
—Anita Desai, The New York Review of Books
“Rather than focus on Gandhi’s chronology, Lelyveld slices through his life to understand his compulsions, read into his thought processes, and assess his actions and outcomes, maintaining a tone of admiring observation without tipping into hagiography or criticizing him with the wisdom that only hindsight can provide. . . . Lelyveld is a worthy interpreter of Gandhi’s varied life.”
—Salil Tripathi, The Washington Post
“A noteworthy book, vivid, nuanced and clear-eyed. . . . Lelyveld brings to his subject a reporter’s healthy skepticism and an old India hand’s stubborn fascination with the subcontinent and its people.”
—Geoffrey C. Ward, The New York Times Book Review
“A deeply insightful analysis of perhaps the most intriguing political leader of our time. A marvelous book.”
—Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize winner in economics and author of The Idea of Justice
“Lelyveld shatters the attractive myth . . . of the brave little man in a loincloth bringing down a mighty empire.”
—Pankaj Mishra, The New Yorker
“Lelyveld is a determined researcher. . . . He succeeds in leaving us with a fuller picture of Gandhi as a leader and a man.”
—Bill Williams, The Boston Globe
“Closely researched. . . . A sometimes wry but always clear-eyed weighing of Gandhi’s achievements against his goals. . . . Sobering but moving.”
—Madhusree Mukerjee, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Great Soul is that rare achievement: a book that says something new about one of the most familiar figures of modern times. . . . Elegantly written, clear-eyed, and bracingly original, this is a magnificent biography of Gandhi’s conscience.”
—T.J. Stiles, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The First Tycoon
“A revealing, original portrait. . . . Taking up a story already portrayed in countless books and films, Lelyveld constructs a fresh narrative. . . . He succeeds in painting Gandhi the spiritual leader as remarkably human.”
—Christine Armario, Associated Press
“Lelyveld scrupulously refrains from apportioning either blame or praise. . . . He lays out the facts and leaves readers to summon up their own interpretations and reactions to them. . . . We might view the writing of this book as an act of salvation, for what person's legacy can ever fully bear the burden of the high honorific of a Great Soul without coming up short?”
—Mirdu Rai, San Francisco Chronicle
“Gandhi’s story is one of the most inspiring in history, and Joseph Lelyveld proves himself equally inspiring in telling the story. This book is a brilliant and glittering match, brimming with—well, soul.”
—Nicholas D. Kristof, coauthor of Half the Sky
“Meticulously researched. . . . Refreshingly candid. . . . Although Lelyveld focuses on the high points of Gandhi’s life, he attempts to show his human side by illuminating the trials, ambiguities and eccentricities of the man. . . . [A] fine work.”
—Bharti Kirchner, The Seattle Times
“Lelyveld wrestles breathtakingly with the Gandhi-inspired conundrums on a high intellectual plane, with clear writing as a bonus.”
—Steve Weinberg, The Christian Science Monitor
“Written with graceful elegance, Lelyveld’s intricate portrait of Gandhi’s conflicted character invites us past the common illusions about one of the twentieth century’s most momentous figures.”
—David K. Shipler, author of The Working Poor
“Fascinating. . . . [A] sophisticated analysis. . . . Gandhi, even riddled with his foibles and failures, inspires awe. But, as Lelyveld observes, he demanded not reverence, but action.”
—Alan Cate, Cleveland Plain Dealer
“By the time we put down this deeply resonant, even sonorous book, we can only begin to appreciate how difficult it must have been for Gandhi to live out his character, his persona and his destiny. . . . The most effective Gandhi biography thus far.”
—Ananya Vajpeyi, The Caravan (India)
About the Author
Joseph Lelyveld’s interest in Gandhi dates back to tours in India and South Africa as a correspondent for The New York Times, where he worked for nearly four decades, ending up as executive editor from 1994 to 2001. His book on apartheid, Move Your Shadow: South Africa, Black and White, won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. He is also the author of Omaha Blues: A Memory Loop. He lives in New York.
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On top of this is a writing style in dire need of an editor. The author's us of run-on sentences with multiple dependent clauses should be use by all high school teachers as an example of how NOT to write. Clear, precise sentences with a single thought would improve this book.
Why did Lelyveld write this book?
I kept reading, hoping that I would find an answer. But I never did. The book just kept going, clinging to vestiges of Gandhi's great soul with a fierce grip; but the narrative never rose above the journalistic mud of mundane equivocation and tactical feints. I felt less that the book portrayed Gandhi's own struggles between the mystic plane and the terrestrial role of leader than these contests provided measures for the author's own ambivalences. I couldn't help but also feel a bit of anger. What level of struggle between mystic vision and a leader's negotiating had this author undertaken in his own searching? On what does he base his historical, no less spiritual, judgements? When I came to the end, and the author still had revealed nothing about the learning Gandhi's great life impelled him to undertake, I also came to distrust the work as a whole.
People who know little about Gandhi will hardly be able to follow the narrative; people who know a lot about Gandhi might be edified by some journalistic detail; so I don't know who really benefits from this book. Except Lelyveld himself possibly.
The picture I get is not that of Gandhi, but of a man, the author, trying to negotiate between the gossip and the greatness, and using this exercise in depicting Gandhi to make sense of his own life. This is not to impute motives on the part of the author, it is only to provide myself with an answer as to why this book was written. I kept reading in the hope that Lelyveld could find his way through the thickets that the necessity of leading imposes and he would find his way to the spiritual release into hope that Gandhi lived for. But, between these covers anyway, this never happened.
The book is doleful throughout, succumbing to the smirks of gossip rather than extricating itself and permitting author and reader a glimpse into a living being who was willing to and did undertake suffering for the sake of a better humanity.
I give the book three stars because, it seems, as we slog through these pages, we readers, all by ourselves, get to test ourselves against this standard: gossip or greatness, which do we choose -- as Gandhi's legacy, as our own life path?
Most recent customer reviews
Even those who have read the book should go over it.Read more