Catalogue


Great soul : Mahatma Gandhi and his struggle with India /
Joseph Lelyveld.
edition
1st ed.
imprint
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.
description
xv, 425 p. : ill., maps.
ISBN
9780307269584
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.
isbn
9780307269584
contents note
South Africa -- Prologue : an unwelcome visitor -- No-touchism -- Among Zulus -- Upper house -- Leading the indentured -- India -- Waking India -- Unapproachability -- Hail, deliverer -- Fast unto death -- Village of service -- Mass mayhem -- Do or die.
general note
"This is a Borzoi book"--T.p. verso.
catalogue key
7448865
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
First Chapter
1

PROLOGUE:

AN UNWELCOME VISITOR

It was a brief only a briefless lawyer might have accepted. Mohandas Gandhi landed in South Africa as an untested, unknown twenty-three- year-old law clerk brought over from Bombay, where his effort to launch a legal career had been stalled for more than a year. His stay in the country was expected to be temporary, a year at most. Instead, a full twenty-one years elapsed before he made his final departure on July 14, 1914. By then, he was forty-four, a seasoned politician and negotiator, recently leader of a mass movement, author of a doctrine for such struggles, a pithy and prolific political pamphleteer, and more-a self-taught evangelist on matters spiritual, nutritional, even medical. That's to say, he was well on his way to becoming the Gandhi India would come to revere and, sporadically, follow.

None of that was part of the original job description. His only mission at the outset was to assist in a bitter civil suit between two Muslim trading firms with roots of their own in Porbandar, the small port on the Arabian Sea, in the northwest corner of today's India, where he was born. All the young lawyer brought to the case were his fluency in English and Gujarati, his first language, and his recent legal training at the Inner Temple in London; his lowly task was to function as an interpreter, culturally as well as linguistically, between the merchant who engaged him and the merchant's English attorney.

Up to this point there was no evidence of his ever having had a spontaneous political thought. During three years in London-and the nearly two years of trying to find his feet in India that followed-his causes were dietary and religious: vegetarianism and the mystical cult known as Theosophy, which claimed to have absorbed the wisdom of the East, in particular of Hinduism, about which Gandhi, looking for footholds on a foreign shore, had more curiosity then than scriptural knowledge himself. Never a mystic, he found fellowship in London with other seekers on what amounted, metaphorically speaking, to a small weedy fringe, which he took to be common ground between two cultures.

South Africa, by contrast, challenged him from the start to explain what he thought he was doing there in his brown skin. Or, more precisely, in his brown skin, natty frock coat, striped pants, and black turban, flattened in the style of his native Kathiawad region, which he wore into a magistrate's court in Durban on May 23, 1893, the day after his arrival. The magistrate took the headgear as a sign of disrespect and ordered the unknown lawyer to remove it; instead, Gandhi stalked out of the courtroom. The small confrontation was written up the next day inThe Natal Advertiserin a sardonic little article titled "An Unwelcome Visitor." Gandhi immediately shot off a letter to the newspaper, the first of dozens he'd write to deflect or deflate white sentiments. "Just as it is a mark of respect amongst Europeans to take off their hats," he wrote, an Indian shows respect by keeping his head covered. "In England, on attending drawing-room meetings and evening parties, Indians always keep the head-dress, and the English ladies and gentlemen seem to appreciate the regard which we show thereby."

The letter saw print on what was only the fourth day the young nonentity had been in the land. It's noteworthy because it comes nearly two weeksbeforea jarring experience of racial insult, on a train heading inland from the coast, that's generally held to have fired his spirit of resistance. The letter to theAdvertiserwould seem to demonstrate that Gandhi's spirit didn't need igniting; its undertone of teasing, of playful jousting, would turn out to be characteristic. Yet it's the train incident that's certified as transformative not only in Richard Attenborough's filmGandhior Philip Glass's operaSatyagrahabut in Gandhi's ownAutobiography, written three decades after the event.

If it wasn't character forming, it must have been character arousing (or deepening) to be ejected, as Gandhi was at Pietermaritzburg, from a first-class compartment because a white passenger objected to having to share the space with a "coolie." What's regularly underplayed in the countless renditions of the train incident is the fact that the agitated young lawyer eventually got his way. The next morning he fired off telegrams to the general manager of the railway and his sponsor in Durban. He raised enough of a commotion that he finally was allowed to reboard the same train from the same station the next night under the protection of the stationmaster, occupying a first-class berth.

The rail line didn't run all the way to Johannesburg in those days, so he had to complete the final leg of the trip by stagecoach. Again he fell into a clash that was overtly racial. Gandhi, who'd refrained from making a fuss about being seated outside on the coach box next to the driver, was dragged down at a rest stop by a white crewman who wanted the seat for himself. When he resisted, the crewman called him a "sammy"-a derisive South African epithet for Indians (derived from "swami," it's said)-and started thumping him. In Gandhi's retelling, his protests had the surprising effect of rousing sympathetic white passengers to intervene on his behalf. He manages to keep his seat and, when the coach stops for the night, shoots off a letter to the local supervisor of the stagecoach company, who then makes sure that the young foreigner is seated inside for the final stage of the journey.

All the newcomer's almost instantaneous retorts in letters and telegrams tell us that young Mohan, as he would have been called, brought his instinct for resistance (what the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson called his "eternal negative") with him to South Africa. Its alien environment would prove a perfect place for that instinct to flourish. In what was still largely a frontier society, the will to white domination had yet to produce a settled racial order. (It never would, in fact, though the attempt would be systematically made.) Gandhi would not have to seek conflict; it would find him.

In these bumpy first days in a new land, Mohan Gandhi comes across on first encounters as a wiry, engaging figure, soft-spoken but not at all reticent. His English is on its way to becoming impeccable, and he's as well dressed in a British manner as most whites he meets. He can stand his ground, but he's not assertive or restless in the sense of seeming unsettled. Later he would portray himself as having been shy at this stage in his life, but in fact he consistently demonstrates a poise that may have been a matter of heritage: he's the son and grandson ofdiwans, occupants of the top civil position in the courts of the tiny princely states that proliferated in the part of Gujarat where he grew up. A diwan was a cross between a chief minister and an estate manager. Gandhi's father evidently failed to dip into his rajah's coffers for his own benefit and remained a man of modest means. But he had status, dignity, and assurance to bequeath. These attributes in combination with his brown skin and his credentials as a London-trained barrister are enough to mark the son as unusual in that time and place in South Africa: for some, at least, a sympathetic, arresting figure.

He's susceptible to moral appeals and ameliorative doctrines but not particularly curious about his new surroundings or the tangle of moral issues that are as much part of the new land as its hardy flora. He has left a wife and two sons behind in India and has yet to import the string of nephews and cousins who'd later follow him to South Africa, so he's very much on his own. Because he failed to establish himself as a lawyer in Bombay, his temporary commission represents his entire livelihood and that of his family, so he can reasonably be assumed to be on the lookout for ways to jump-start a career. He wants his life to matter, but he's not sure where or how; in that sense, like most twenty-three-year-olds, he's vulnerable and unfinished. He's looking for something-a career, a sanctified way of life, preferably both-on which to fasten. You can't easily tell from the autobiography he'd dash off in weekly installments more than three decades later, but at this stage he's more the unsung hero of an East-West bildungsroman than the Mahatma in waiting he portrays who experiences few doubts or deviations after his first weeks in London before he turned twenty. The Gandhi who landed in South Africa doesn't seem a likely recipient of the spiritual honorific-"Mahatma" means "Great Soul"-that the poet Rabindranath Tagore affixed to his name years later, four years after his return to India. His transformation or self-invention-a process that's as much inward as outward-takes years, but once it's under way, he's never again static or predictable.

Toward the end of his life, when he could no longer command the movement he'd led in India, Gandhi found words in a Tagore song to express his abiding sense of his own singularity: "I believe in walking alone. I came alone in this world, I have walked alone in the valley of the shadow of death, and I shall quit alone, when the time comes." He wouldn't have put it quite so starkly when he landed in South Africa, but he felt himself to be walking alone in a way he could hardly have imagined had he remained in the cocoon of his Indian extended family.

He'd have other racial encounters of varying degrees of nastiness as he settled into a rough-and-ready South Africa where whites wrote the rules: in Johannesburg, the manager of the Grand National Hotel would look him over and only then discover there were no free rooms; in Pretoria, where there was actually a bylaw reserving sidewalks for the exclusive use of whites, a policeman on guard in front of President Paul Kruger's house would threaten to cuff the strolling newcomer into the road for transgressing on the pavement; a white barber there would refuse to cut his hair; in Durban the law society would object to his being registered as an advocate, a status hitherto reserved for whites; he would be denied admission to a worship service at an Anglican church.

It would take a full century for such practices to grind to a halt, for white minority rule finally to reach its inevitable and well- deserved end in South Africa. Now new monuments to Gandhi are scattered about the land, reflecting the heroic role attributed to him in the country's rewritten history. I saw such monuments not only at the Phoenix Settlement but in Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Ladysmith, and Dundee. Nearly always it was the elderly figure Winston Churchill scorned as "a seditious Middle Temple lawyer now posing as a fakir . . . striding half-naked" who was portrayed, not the tailored South African lawyer. (Probably that was because most of these statues and busts had been shipped from India, supplied by its government.) In Johannesburg, however, in a large urban space renamed Gandhi Square- formerly it bore the name of an Afrikaner bureaucrat-the South African Gandhi is shown in mufti, striding in the direction of the site of the now-demolished law court where he appeared both as attorney and as prisoner, his bronze lawyer's robe fluttering over a bronze Western suit. Gandhi Square is just around the corner from his old law office at the corner of Rissik and Anderson streets, where he received visitors under a tinctured image of Jesus Christ. The vegetarian restaurant, steps away, where he first encountered his closest white friends is long gone; hard by the place where it stood, perhaps exactly on the spot, a McDonald's now does a fairly brisk nonvegetarian trade. But it's not entirely far-fetched for the new South Africa to claim Gandhi as its own, even if he failed to foresee it for most of his time in the country. In finding his feet there, he formed the persona he would inhabit in India in the final thirty-three years of his life, when he set an example that colonized peoples across the globe, including South Africans, would find inspiring.

One of the new Gandhi memorials sits on a platform of the handsome old railway station in Pietermaritzburg-Maritzburg for short-close to the spot where the newcomer detrained, under a corrugated iron roof trimmed with what appears to be the original Victorian filigree. The plaque says his ejection from the train "changed the course" of Gandhi's life. "He took up the fight against racial oppression," it proclaims. "His active non-violence started from that day."

That's an inspirational paraphrase of Gandhi's Autobiography, but it's squishy as history. Gandhi claims in the Autobiography to have called a meeting on arrival in Pretoria to rally local Indians and inspire them to face up to the racial situation. If he did, little came of it. In that first year, he had yet to assume a mantle of leadership; he was not even seen as a resident, just a junior lawyer imported from Bombay on temporary assignment. His undemanding legal work left him with time on his hands, which he devoted more to religion than to politics; in this new environment, he became an even more serious and eclectic spiritual seeker than he'd been in London. This was a matter of chance as well as inclination. The attorney he was supposed to assist turned out to be an evangelical Christian with a more intense interest in Gandhi's soul than in the commercial case on which they were supposed to be working. Gandhi spent much of his time in a prolonged engagement with white evangelicals who found in him a likely convert. He even attended daily prayer meetings, which regularly included prayers that the light would shine for him.

He told his new friends, all whites, that he was spiritually uncommitted but nearly always denied thereafter that he'd ever seriously contemplated conversion. However, according to the scholar who has made the closest study of Gandhi's involvement with missionaries, it took him two years to resolve the question in his own mind. On one occasion Gandhi acknowledged as much to Millie Polak, the wife of a British lawyer who was part of his inner circle for his last ten years in South Africa. "I did once seriously think of embracing Christianity," she quoted him as having said. "I was tremendously attracted to Christianity, but eventually I came to the conclusion that there was nothing really in your scriptures that we had not got in ours, and that to be a good Hindu also meant I would be a good Christian."

Late in 1894 we find this free-floating, ecumenical novice flirting, or so it sometimes seemed, with several religious sects at once, writing to The Natal Mercury on behalf of a movement called the Esoteric Christian Union, a synthesizing school of belief, as he explained it, that sought to reconcile all religions by showing that each represents the same eternal truths. (It's a theme Gandhi would repeat at prayer meetings in the last years and months of his life, more than a half century later, where the spirit was so all-embracing that "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" had its place among chanted Hindu and Muslim prayers.) In an advertisement for a selection of tracts meant to accompany a letter to the editor he wrote in 1894, he identified himself proudly as an "Agent for the Esoteric Christian Union and the London Vegetarian Society."
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2011-01-10:
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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Appeared in Library Journal on 2011-01-01:
Former New York Times correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lelyveld (Move Your Shadow: South Africa, Black and White) presents a biography that focuses on Gandhi the social reformer. Undertaking legal work, Gandhi arrived in South Africa in 1893; the country became the crucible in which his ideas as a political reformer and social visionary were forged. In 1913 he rallied the indentured workers in a satyagraha (civil disobedience), and he subsequently used civil disobedience and nonviolence in the struggle for Indian independence. At the same time he led an equally arduous crusade against the treatment of untouchables, strove to build communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims, and emphasized the revival of Indian villages. Gandhi regarded all these battles as one. Paradoxically, when Indian independence arrived in 1947 he despaired over the vivisection of the subcontinent and the holocaust that followed. A recent complete biography is by Gandhi's grandson: Rajmohan Gandhi's Gandhi: The Man, His People, and the Empire. VERDICT Lelyveld's book is by no means a hagiography, but reading about the "great soul" that emerges here is a transformative and moving experience. Highly recommended for academic, research, and large public libraries.-Ravi Shenoy, Naperville P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Choice on 2011-12-01:
This interesting, novel look at the life and work of Gandhi accomplishes two main tasks: first, it explains how his ideas/philosophy evolved in South Africa as the Indian community encountered the particular conditions there. Second, the author examines some of the myths created by Gandhi in his own writings and later by his biographers, showing Gandhi as a man with flaws. For instance, while Gandhi was pressing for better treatment of Indians by whites in South Africa, he was making derogatory remarks about South African blacks. Readers are able to see that his views were constantly in flux, developing through his time in South Africa and later in India; that Indians ignored many of Gandhi's ideals; and that Gandhi attempted to unite the roles of both spiritual pilgrim and mass leader, with the mass leader winning out in most instances. One learns that Gandhi was an elusive and complex person whose actions rather than words define him and that Indians have re-created Gandhi much as Gandhi created and re-created himself. Experts will consider the book provocative; general readers will discover a little-known Gandhi. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. D. L. White Lock Haven University
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Judicious and thoughtful . . .Mr. Lelyveld has restored human depth to the Mahatma, the plaster saint, allowing his flawed human readers to feel a little closer to his lofty ideals of nonviolence and universal brotherhood . . . Great Soul will come as a revelation." -Hari Kunzru, The New York Times "Lelyveld brings to [his argument] 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 . . . Lelyveld has exploded so many myths and heaped up so many defeats that his life of Gandhi could easily be read as an ultimately critical one, however judiciously and carefully constructed . . . yet there is no denying Lelyveld's deep sympathy with the man. 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 "Great Soul is 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 "Scrupulous . . . Subtle . . . Distinctive and original." -Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic "Lelyveld shatters the attractive myth . . . of the brave little man in a loincloth bringing down a mighty empire." -Pankaj Mishra, The New Yorker "An esteemed, skeptical journalist lets us know that Gandhi, a great and greatly eccentric man, never solved the snarled enigmas at the heart of India. A life of triumph, failure, and greatness shines forth." -John Timpane, Philadelphia Inquirer "Joseph Lelyveld thoroughly explores Gandhi's complex and ambiguous history in a rich and textured biography. He helps you understand why Gandhi was adored as few saints (and fewer politicians) ever have been; and why he was thoroughly despised . . . Despite Gandhi's failings, Lelyveld is convincing in entitling his book Great Soul.Gandhi was some kind of great man, passionate, original, creative, spiritual, committed unto death. Who else compares? Who else carried on a just cause before the whole world and managed to preserve the deepest yearnings of the spirit?" -Tim Stafford, Books & Culture "Joseph Lelyveld reads the political career of Gandhi as though it were a piece of music . . . Lelyveld sets himself the task, not of mere narration, not even of reconstruction, but of composition, in the musical sense: creating the complete notation of the opera that was the life of Mahatma Gandhi . . . 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 "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 "A revealing, original portrait . . . Taking up a story already portrayed in countless books and films, Lelyveld constructs a fresh narrative . . . A seamless, impartial account . . . Lelyveld succeeds in painting Gandhi the spiritual leader as remarkably human." -Christine Armario, Associated Press " Great Soulis that rare achievement: a book that says something new about one of the most familiar figures of modern times. George Orwell famously said that Gandhi might well be a saint, but all saints should be judged guilty until proven innocent. Joseph Lelyveld, on the other hand, insists upon Gandhi''s humanity, with all the complexities and contradictions of human nature, which makes his greatness more understandable and more remarkable. 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 "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, Half the Sky. "A deeply insightful analysis of perhaps the most intriguing political leader of our time. A marvelous book." Amartya Sen, Pulitzer Prize winner in economics and author, The Idea of Justice "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 . . . Brilliant . . . Readers will not put down this book having gleaned a full knowledge of all that Gandhi accomplished. But they will definitely possess a deeper understanding of the complex human being behind those accomplishments." -Alden Mudge, BookPage "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 "Thorough . . . The author painstakingly examines the primary sources in Gandhi's life to provide a rich, multilayered portrait of the evolution of his thought and action-no easy feat, since the Mahatma's philosophy changed constantly . . . An impassioned, carefully executed work of reseach."
“ Great Soul is that rare achievement: a book that says something new about one of the most familiar figures of modern times. George Orwell famously said that Gandhi might well be a saint, but all saints should be judged guilty until proven innocent. Joseph Lelyveld, on the other hand, insists upon Gandhi's humanity, with all the complexities and contradictions of human nature, which makes his greatness more understandable and more remarkable. 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 “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, Half the Sky. “A deeply insightful analysis of perhaps the most intriguing political leader of our time. A marvelous book.” –Amartya Sen, Pulitzer Prize winner in economics and author, The Idea of Justice “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 “Great Soul is 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 “An esteemed, skeptical journalist lets us know that Gandhi, a great and greatly eccentric man, never solved the snarled enigmas at the heart of India. A life of triumph, failure, and greatness shines forth.” -John Timpane, Philadelphia Inquirer “Thorough . . . The author painstakingly examines the primary sources in Gandhi’s life to provide a rich, multilayered portrait of the evolution of his thought and action-no easy feat, since the Mahatma’s philosophy changed constantly . . . An impassioned, carefully executed work of reseach.” –Starred review, Kirkus “Rigorous . . . Unexpected . . . Lelyveld pairs a sympathetic but critical analysis of Gandhi’s politics with a vivid portrait of the Mahatma’s charismatic strangeness . . . A stirring, evenhanded account that relates the failure of Gandhi’s politics of saintliness while attesting to its enduring power.” -Publishers Weekly “Reading about the ‘great soul’ that emerges here is a transformative and moving experience. Highly recommended.” -Library Journal
“Judicious and thoughtful . . . Mr. Lelyveld has restored human depth to the Mahatma, the plaster saint, allowing his flawed human readers to feel a little closer to his lofty ideals of nonviolence and universal brotherhood . . . Great Soul will come as a revelation.” -Hari Kunzru, The New York Times “Lelyveld brings to [his argument] 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 . . . Lelyveld has exploded so many myths and heaped up so many defeats that his life of Gandhi could easily be read as an ultimately critical one, however judiciously and carefully constructed . . . yet there is no denying Lelyveld’s deep sympathy with the man. 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 “Great Soul is 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 “Lelyveld shatters the attractive myth . . . of the brave little man in a loincloth bringing down a mighty empire.” -Pankaj Mishra, The New Yorker “An esteemed, skeptical journalist lets us know that Gandhi, a great and greatly eccentric man, never solved the snarled enigmas at the heart of India. A life of triumph, failure, and greatness shines forth.” -John Timpane, Philadelphia Inquirer “Joseph Lelyveld reads the political career of Gandhi as though it were a piece of music . . . Lelyveld sets himself the task, not of mere narration, not even of reconstruction, but of composition, in the musical sense: creating the complete notation of the opera that was the life of Mahatma Gandhi . . . 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 “A revealing, original portrait . . . Taking up a story already portrayed in countless books and films, Lelyveld constructs a fresh narrative . . . A seamless, impartial account . . . Lelyveld succeeds in painting Gandhi the spiritual leader as remarkably human.” -Christine Armario, Associated Press “ Great Soul is that rare achievement: a book that says something new about one of the most familiar figures of modern times. George Orwell famously said that Gandhi might well be a saint, but all saints should be judged guilty until proven innocent. Joseph Lelyveld, on the other hand, insists upon Gandhi''s humanity, with all the complexities and contradictions of human nature, which makes his greatness more understandable and more remarkable. 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 “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, Half the Sky. “A deeply insightful analysis of perhaps the most intriguing political leader of our time. A marvelous book.” –Amartya Sen, Pulitzer Prize winner in economics and author, The Idea of Justice “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 . . . Brilliant . . . Readers will not put down this book having gleaned a full knowledge of all that Gandhi accomplished. But they will definitely possess a deeper understanding of the complex human being behind those accomplishments.” -Alden Mudge, BookPage “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 “Thorough . . . The author painstakingly examines the primary sources in Gandhi’s life to provide a rich, multilayered portrait of the evolution of his thought and action-no easy feat, since the Mahatma’s philosophy changed constantly . . . An impassioned, carefully executed work of reseach.” –Starred review, Kirkus “Rigorous . . . Unexpected . . . Lelyveld pairs a sympathetic but critical analysis of Gandhi’s politics with a vivid portrait of the Mahatma’s charismatic strangeness . . . A stirring, evenhanded account that relates the failure of Gandhi’s politics of saintliness while attesting to its enduring power.” -Publishers Weekly “Reading about the ‘great soul’ that emerges here is a transformative and moving experience. Highly recommended.” -Library Journal
“ Great Soul is that rare achievement: a book that says something new about one of the most familiar figures of modern times. George Orwell famously said that Gandhi might well be a saint, but all saints should be judged guilty until proven innocent. Joseph Lelyveld, on the other hand, insists upon Gandhi's humanity, with all the complexities and contradictions of human nature, which makes his greatness more understandable and more remarkable. 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 “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, Half the Sky. “A deeply insightful analysis of perhaps the most intriguing political leader of our time. A marvelous book.” –Amartya Sen, Pulitzer Prize winner in economics and author, The Idea of Justice “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 “An esteemed, skeptical journalist lets us know that Gandhi, a great and greatly eccentric man, never solved the snarled enigmas at the heart of India. A life of triumph, failure, and greatness shines forth.” -John Timpane, Philadelphia Inquirer “Thorough . . . The author painstakingly examines the primary sources in Gandhi’s life to provide a rich, multilayered portrait of the evolution of his thought and action-no easy feat, since the Mahatma’s philosophy changed constantly . . . An impassioned, carefully executed work of reseach.” –Starred review, Kirkus “Rigorous . . . Unexpected . . . Lelyveld pairs a sympathetic but critical analysis of Gandhi’s politics with a vivid portrait of the Mahatma’s charismatic strangeness . . . A stirring, evenhanded account that relates the failure of Gandhi’s politics of saintliness while attesting to its enduring power.” - Publishers Weekly “Reading about the ‘great soul’ that emerges here is a transformative and moving experience. Highly recommended.” - Library Journal
A New YorkerReviewers' Favorite of 2011 "Perceptive . . . Lelyveld persuasively demonstrates Gandhi's inherent greatness-and continuing relevance." -Judith Chettle, Richmond Times-Dispatch10 Favorite Books of 2011 "Judicious and thoughtful . . .Mr. Lelyveld has restored human depth to the Mahatma, the plaster saint, allowing his flawed human readers to feel a little closer to his lofty ideals of nonviolence and universal brotherhood . . . Great Soul will come as a revelation." -Hari Kunzru, The New York Times "Lelyveld brings to [his argument] 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 . . . Lelyveld has exploded so many myths and heaped up so many defeats that his life of Gandhi could easily be read as an ultimately critical one, however judiciously and carefully constructed . . . yet there is no denying Lelyveld's deep sympathy with the man. 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 "Great Soul is 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 "Scrupulous . . . Subtle . . . Distinctive and original." -Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic "Lelyveld shatters the attractive myth . . . of the brave little man in a loincloth bringing down a mighty empire." -Pankaj Mishra, The New Yorker "An esteemed, skeptical journalist lets us know that Gandhi, a great and greatly eccentric man, never solved the snarled enigmas at the heart of India. A life of triumph, failure, and greatness shines forth." -John Timpane, Philadelphia Inquirer "Joseph Lelyveld thoroughly explores Gandhi's complex and ambiguous history in a rich and textured biography. He helps you understand why Gandhi was adored as few saints (and fewer politicians) ever have been; and why he was thoroughly despised . . . Despite Gandhi's failings, Lelyveld is convincing in entitling his book Great Soul.Gandhi was some kind of great man, passionate, original, creative, spiritual, committed unto death. Who else compares? Who else carried on a just cause before the whole world and managed to preserve the deepest yearnings of the spirit?" -Tim Stafford, Books & Culture "Joseph Lelyveld reads the political career of Gandhi as though it were a piece of music . . . Lelyveld sets himself the task, not of mere narration, not even of reconstruction, but of composition, in the musical sense: creating the complete notation of the opera that was the life of Mahatma Gandhi . . . 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 "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 "A revealing, original portrait . . . Taking up a story already portrayed in countless books and films, Lelyveld constructs a fresh narrative . . . A seamless, impartial account . . . Lelyveld succeeds in painting Gandhi the spiritual leader as remarkably human." -Christine Armario, Associated Press " Great Soulis that rare achievement: a book that says something new about one of the most familiar figures of modern times. George Orwell famously said that Gandhi might well be a saint, but all saints should be judged guilty until proven innocent. Joseph Lelyveld, on the other hand, insists upon Gandhi''s humanity, with all the complexities and contradictions of human nature, which makes his greatness more understandable and more remarkable. 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 "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, Half the Sky. "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, The Idea of Justice "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 . . . Brilliant . . . Readers will not put down this book having gleaned a full knowledge of all that Gandhi accomplished. But they will definitely possess a deeper understanding of the complex human being behind those accomplishments." -Alden Mudge, BookPage "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 "Thorough . . . The author painstakingly examines the primary sources in Gandhi's life to provide a rich, multilayered portrait of the evolution of
A New YorkerReviewers' Favorite of 2011 "Perceptive . . . Lelyveld persuasively demonstrates Gandhi's inherent greatness-and continuing relevance." -Judith Chettle, Richmond Times-Dispatch10 Favorite Books of 2011 "Judicious and thoughtful . . .Mr. Lelyveld has restored human depth to the Mahatma, the plaster saint, allowing his flawed human readers to feel a little closer to his lofty ideals of nonviolence and universal brotherhood . . . Great Soul will come as a revelation." -Hari Kunzru, The New York Times "Lelyveld brings to [his argument] 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 . . . Lelyveld has exploded so many myths and heaped up so many defeats that his life of Gandhi could easily be read as an ultimately critical one, however judiciously and carefully constructed . . . yet there is no denying Lelyveld's deep sympathy with the man. 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 "Great Soul is 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 "Scrupulous . . . Subtle . . . Distinctive and original." -Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic "Lelyveld shatters the attractive myth . . . of the brave little man in a loincloth bringing down a mighty empire." -Pankaj Mishra, The New Yorker "An esteemed, skeptical journalist lets us know that Gandhi, a great and greatly eccentric man, never solved the snarled enigmas at the heart of India. A life of triumph, failure, and greatness shines forth." -John Timpane, Philadelphia Inquirer "Joseph Lelyveld thoroughly explores Gandhi's complex and ambiguous history in a rich and textured biography. He helps you understand why Gandhi was adored as few saints (and fewer politicians) ever have been; and why he was thoroughly despised . . . Despite Gandhi's failings, Lelyveld is convincing in entitling his book Great Soul.Gandhi was some kind of great man, passionate, original, creative, spiritual, committed unto death. Who else compares? Who else carried on a just cause before the whole world and managed to preserve the deepest yearnings of the spirit?" -Tim Stafford, Books & Culture "Joseph Lelyveld reads the political career of Gandhi as though it were a piece of music . . . Lelyveld sets himself the task, not of mere narration, not even of reconstruction, but of composition, in the musical sense: creating the complete notation of the opera that was the life of Mahatma Gandhi . . . 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 "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 "A revealing, original portrait . . . Taking up a story already portrayed in countless books and films, Lelyveld constructs a fresh narrative . . . A seamless, impartial account . . . Lelyveld succeeds in painting Gandhi the spiritual leader as remarkably human." -Christine Armario, Associated Press " Great Soulis that rare achievement: a book that says something new about one of the most familiar figures of modern times. George Orwell famously said that Gandhi might well be a saint, but all saints should be judged guilty until proven innocent. Joseph Lelyveld, on the other hand, insists upon Gandhi''s humanity, with all the complexities and contradictions of human nature, which makes his greatness more understandable and more remarkable. 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 "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, Half the Sky. "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, The Idea of Justice "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 . . . Brilliant . . . Readers will not put down this book having gleaned a full knowledge of all that Gandhi accomplished. But they will definitely possess a deeper understanding of the complex human being behind those accomplishments." -Alden Mudge, BookPage "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 G
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Booklist, January 2011
Library Journal, January 2011
Publishers Weekly, January 2011
New York Times Book Review, March 2011
New York Times Full Text Review, March 2011
Wall Street Journal, March 2011
Boston Globe, April 2011
San Francisco Chronicle, April 2011
Washington Post, April 2011
Choice, December 2011
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Summaries
Main Description
A highly original, stirring book on Mahatma Gandhi that deepens our sense of his achievements and disappointmentshis success in seizing India's imagination and shaping its independence struggle as a mass movement, his recognition late in life that few of his followers paid more than lip service to his ambitious goals of social justice for the country's minorities, outcasts, and rural poor. Pulitzer Prizewinner Joseph Lelyveld shows in vivid, unmatched detail how Gandhi's sense of mission, social values, and philosophy of nonviolent resistance were shaped on another subcontinentduring two decades in South Africaand then tested by an India that quickly learned to revere him as a Mahatma, or "Great Soul," while following him only a small part of the way to the social transformation he envisioned. The man himself emerges as one of history's most remarkable self-creations, a prosperous lawyer who became an ascetic in a loincloth wholly dedicated to political and social action. Lelyveld leads us step-by-step through the heroicand tragiclast months of this selfless leader's long campaign when his nonviolent efforts culminated in the partition of India, the creation of Pakistan, and a bloodbath of ethnic cleansing that ended only with his own assassination. India and its politicians were ready to place Gandhi on a pedestal as "Father of the Nation" but were less inclined to embrace his teachings. Muslim support, crucial in his rise to leadership, soon waned, and the oppressed untouchablesfor whom Gandhi spoke to Hindus as a wholeproduced their own leaders. Here is a vital, brilliant reconsideration of Gandhi's extraordinary struggles on two continents, of his fierce but, finally, unfulfilled hopes, and of his ever-evolving legacy, which more than six decades after his death still ensures his place as India's social conscienceand not just India's.
Description for Library
A Pulitzer Prize winner, George Polk Award winner (twice), and New York Times fixture for four decades, Lely-veld here aims to give us the real Gandhi-the one who sometimes succeeded (spectacularly) and sometimes failed. Another way to understand India, ever more in the news; with a six-city tour.
Library of Congress Summary
In this ambitious, original study, Pulitzer Prize-winner Lelyveld sets out to measure Gandhi's accomplishments as a politician and an advocate for the downtrodden--against Gandhi's own expectations and in light of his complex, conflicted feelings about his place in Indian history.
Main Description
A brilliantly illuminating book on Mahatma Gandhi that enriches our understanding of his means, his accomplishments, and his failures. Gandhi has long been considered a visionary and a martyr. And certainly, he was that rare leader wholly devoted to his people. But in this ambitious, stirring, original study, Pulitzer Prize winner Joseph Lelyveld sets out to measure Gandhi's accomplishments as a politician and an advocate for the downtrodden-against Gandhi's own expectations and in light of his complex, conflicted feelings about his place in Indian history. Lelyveld traces the roots of Gandhir's philosophy of reform to South Africa, exploring in unmatched depth the campaigns for social justice he undertook there, and chronicling his continued efforts when he returned to India. We see why he became known as Mahatma-Great Soul-but we also see clearly that he was unable to achieve all the goals he set for himself and his country, suffering bitter disappointment at this shortfall, most profoundly in 1947 when India was partitioned. Here is a profoundly intelligent, vital reconsideration of Gandhi's extraordinary accomplishments, of his fierce but finally unfulfilled hopes, and of his ever-evolving legacy.
Main Description
A highly original, stirring book on Mahatma Gandhi that deepens our sense of his achievements and disappointments -his success in seizing India's imagination and shaping its independence struggle as a mass movement, his recognition late in life that few of his followers paid more than lip service to his ambitious goals of social justice for the country's minorities, outcasts, and rural poor. Pulitzer Prize-winner Joseph Lelyveld shows in vivid, unmatched detail how Gandhi's sense of mission, social values, and philosophy of nonviolent resistance were shaped on another subcontinent - during two decades in South Africa -and then tested by an India that quickly learned to revere him as a Mahatma, or "Great Soul," while following him only a small part of the way to the social transformation he envisioned. The man himself emerges as one of history's most remarkable self-creations, a prosperous lawyer who became an ascetic in a loincloth wholly dedicated to political and social action. Lelyveld leads us step-by-step through the heroic - and tragic - last months of this selfless leader's long campaign when his nonviolent efforts culminated in the partition of India, the creation of Pakistan, and a bloodbath of ethnic cleansing that ended only with his own assassination. India and its politicians were ready to place Gandhi on a pedestal as "Father of the Nation" but were less inclined to embrace his teachings. Muslim support, crucial in his rise to leadership, soon waned, and the oppressed untouchables - for whom Gandhi spoke to Hindus as a whole - produced their own leaders. Here is a vital, brilliant reconsideration of Gandhi's extraordinary struggles on two continents, of his fierce but, finally, unfulfilled hopes, and of his ever-evolving legacy, which more than six decades after his death still ensures his place as India's social conscience - and not just India's.
Table of Contents
Author's Notep. xi
South Africa
Prologue: An Unwelcome Visitorp. 3
No-Touchismp. 28
Among Zulusp. 53
Upper Housep. 79
Leading the Indenturedp. 105
India
Waking Indiap. 139
Unapproachabilityp. 170
Hail, Delivererp. 197
Fast unto Deathp. 224
Village of Servicep. 254
Mass Mayhemp. 283
Do or Diep. 321
Glossaryp. 351
Chronologyp. 355
Notesp. 361
Sourcesp. 391
Acknowledgmentsp. 399
Indexp. 405
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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