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Gandhi Before Indiaby Ramachandra Guha
Synopses & Reviews
The first volume of a magisterial biography: the definitive portrait of the life and work of one of the most abidingly influential — and controversial — men in modern history.
Here is a revelatory work of biography that takes us from Mohandas Gandhi's birth in 1869 through his upbringing in Gujarat, his two years as a student in London, and his two decades as a lawyer and community organizer in South Africa. Ramachandra Guha has uncovered a myriad of previously untapped documents, including private papers of Gandhi's contemporaries and co-workers, contemporary newspapers and court documents, the writings of Gandhi's children, secret files kept by British Empire functionaries. Using this wealth of material in a brilliantly nuanced narrative, Guha describes the social, political, and personal worlds in which Gandhi began his journey to become the modern era's most important and influential political actor. And Guha makes clear that Gandhi's work in South Africa-far from being a mere prelude to his accomplishments in India-was profoundly influential on his evolution as a political thinker, social reformer, and beloved leader.
"This first volume in a two-part biography of Gandhi from Guha (India After Gandhi) proves itself an essential work for its bold purpose, extensive research, and engaging prose. Seeking to address scholarly reliance on the Mahatma's own writings, Guha looks to a broader range of primary sources, including both Gandhi's allies and detractors, to explore his 'less known and sometimes forgotten' early career. We experience Mohandas Gandhi as he lived and evolved into an 'authentically global' prophet of peace, engaged in a process of 'dialogue and reconciliation' with a conflicted world. Much of the book chronicles Gandhi's rise to prominence in South Africa, where he arrived as a multilingual barrister capable of translating between the British and the Indian diaspora. This ability to bridge communities became a foundation for the 'unique spirit of ecumenism' that Gandhi developed into a passive resistance philosophy supported by both Eastern and Western precedents. His religious journey was paramount, as he grew beyond the orthodox Hinduism and dietary restrictions of his caste by incorporating perspectives from the Christians, Muslims, Jews, and vegetarians (the Vegetarian Society was his primary social outlet) he befriended throughout his career. Through this excellent volume, Guha demonstrates his deep affinity for the Mahatma with an honest examination of his personal development. Maps & illus." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Remarkable....[A] moving portrait.” The New York Times Book Review
“Guha is a brilliant historian who combines the gift of a storyteller, the discipline of an academic and the critical ability of seeing Gandhi as a fascinating human being, by not placing him on a pedestal....[He] has re-created the past by connecting scattered dots...to weave a rich tapestry.” San Francisco Chronicle
“Striking....Guha ably shows, for all that Gandhi influenced events in South Africa, it was he who experienced the greater change.” The Economist
“Deeply contextualized, dexterously researched, and judiciously written, this deserves to become the landmark biography of the early Gandhi.” Maya Jasanoff, New Republic
“Gandhi Before India should be required reading for the student of contemporary affairs....Guha’s carefully rendered observations about class, religion, and ethnicity — how they divide people and how they can be bridged by common concerns and simple decency — are the heart of this book....Remarkable.” The Christian Science Monitor
About the Author
Ramachandra Guha has taught at Yale and Stanford universities, the University of Oslo, the Indian Institute of Science and the London School of Economics. His books include a pioneering environmental history, an award-winning social history of cricket and the award-winning India After Gandhi. He writes regularly on social and political issues for the British and Indian press, including columns in The Telegraph and the Hindustan Times, and his work has also appeared in The New York Times. He lives in Bangalore.
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