June 5, 2011


Joseph Lelyveld, Great Soul" Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India (New York: Knopf, 2011) ("This isn't intended to be a retelling of the standard Gandhi narrative. I merely touch on or leave out crucial periods and episodes . . . in order to hew in this essay to specific narrative lines I've chosen. These have to do with Gandhi the social reformer, with his evolving sense of his constituency and social vision, a narrative that's usually subordinate to that of the struggle for independence. The Gandhi I've pursued is the one who claimed once to 'have been trying all my life to identify myself with the most illiterate and downtrodden.' At the risk of slighting his role as a political tactician, a field marshal of nonviolent resistance, or as a religions thinker and exemplar, I've tried to follow him at ground level as he struggled to impose his vision on an often recalcitrant India--especially recalcitrant, he found, when he tried not just its patience but its reverence for him with his harangues on the 'crime' and 'curse' of untouchability, or the need for the majority Hindus to accommodate the large Muslim minority." Id. at xiii.).