Synopses & Reviews
At the same time that Gandhi, as a young lawyer in South Africa, began fashioning the tenets of his political philosophy, he was absorbed by a seemingly unrelated enterprise: creating a newspaper. Gandhi's Printing Press
is an account of how this project, an apparent footnote to a titanic career, shaped the man who would become the world-changing Mahatma. Pioneering publisher, experimental editor, ethical anthologist--these roles reveal a Gandhi developing the qualities and talents that would later define him.
Isabel Hofmeyr presents a detailed study of Gandhi's work in South Africa (1893-1914), when he was the some-time proprietor of a printing press and launched the periodical Indian Opinion. The skills Gandhi honed as a newspaperman--distilling stories from numerous sources, circumventing shortages of type--influenced his spare prose style. Operating out of the colonized Indian Ocean world, Gandhi saw firsthand how a global empire depended on the rapid transmission of information over vast distances. He sensed that communication in an industrialized age was becoming calibrated to technological tempos.
But he responded by slowing the pace, experimenting with modes of reading and writing focused on bodily, not mechanical, rhythms. Favoring the use of hand-operated presses, he produced a newspaper to contemplate rather than scan, one more likely to excerpt Thoreau than feature easily glossed headlines. Gandhi's Printing Press illuminates how the concentration and self-discipline inculcated by slow reading, imbuing the self with knowledge and ethical values, evolved into satyagraha, truth-force, the cornerstone of Gandhi's revolutionary idea of nonviolent resistance.
"Hofmeyr, a professor of African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, examines Gandhi's work with words before he became a Mahatma. While he was a young attorney in South Africa at the outset of the 20th century, Gandhi was also 'a sometime proprietor' of the press that printed the influential Indian Opinion newspaper, whose production formed, for the burgeoning activist, a crash course in the synthesizing of public opinion, news, and progressive thought. Located on an ashram outside the port city of Durban, the press allowed Gandhi and his cohorts to explore 'new kinds of ethical selves,' bringing together as it did 'different castes, religions, languages, races, and genders.' In Hofmeyr's portrait, Gandhi emerges as a surprisingly keen publicist and media strategist, willing to buck the system (e.g., copyright laws) in the service of social change. She also offers a fascinating take on Gandhi's mode of 'contemplative reading,' one characterized by the merging of the text with a receptive mind via 'pausing and perseverance,' all with an aim of cumulative progress. Indeed, Gandhi read as he led. This thoughtful account is a compelling preview of the colonial subcontinent's development, as well as Gandhi's eventual role as peaceful emancipator of his own country. 5 halftones, 4 maps." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
When Gandhi as a young lawyer in South Africa began fashioning the tenets of his political philosophy, he was absorbed by a seemingly unrelated enterprise: creating a newspaper, Indian Opinion. In Gandhi's Printing Press Isabel Hofmeyr provides an account of how this footnote to a career shaped the man who would become the world-changing Mahatma.
About the Author
Isabel Hofmeyr is Professor of African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg