Great Soul by Joseph Lelyveld

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Synopsis

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.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Joseph Lelyveld

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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.
 
Published March 29, 2011 by Vintage. 449 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, Religion & Spirituality. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Great Soul

The New York Times

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In this new study, Joseph Lelyveld re-examines and humanizes Gandhi.

Mar 29 2011 | Read Full Review of Great Soul

The New York Times

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Joseph Lelyveld’s vivid, nuanced and cleareyed study of Mahatma Gandhi focuses on his role as a social reformer, in both South Africa and in India.

Mar 24 2011 | Read Full Review of Great Soul

The Wall Street Journal

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(Gandhi and Mussolini got on well when they met in December 1931, with the Great Soul praising the Duce's "service to the poor, his opposition to super-urbanization, his efforts to bring about a coordination between Capital and ­Labour, his passionate love for his people.") During his 21 years in...

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The Wall Street Journal

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(Gandhi and Mussolini got on well when they met in December 1931, with the Great Soul praising the Duce's "service to the poor, his opposition to super-urbanization, his efforts to bring about a coordination between Capital and ­Labour, his passionate love for his people.") During his 21 years in...

Mar 26 2011 | Read Full Review of Great Soul

New York Journal of Books

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For example, toward the end of his life with the premonition of his death ever present in his mind, Gandhi as in other occasions throughout his life, insisted on fasting and trekking in one last ditch attempt to maintain an Indian unity between the Hindus and Muslims even during the intense rioti...

Mar 29 2011 | Read Full Review of Great Soul

The Daily Beast

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is our manhood—our living Indian manhood.

Apr 13 2011 | Read Full Review of Great Soul

Bookmarks Magazine

In Great Soul, Joseph Lelyveld makes Gandhi's thought the center of his story and then examines aspects of his life with the purpose of finding out how that thought intersected with reality, making for an illuminating, though unconventional, telling of Gandhi's life.

Mar 27 2011 | Read Full Review of Great Soul

The New York Review of Books

It was Tagore who had given Gandhi the honorific of Mahatma—Great Soul—and Gandhi in return had named him the Great Sentinel, but for all their praise of each other, they had little in common—one an artist and aristocrat, the other an ascetic and a populist.

Apr 28 2011 | Read Full Review of Great Soul

Straight.com

In Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India, former New York Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld depicts Gandhi as a clever, well-intentioned, courageous, and sometimes domineering politician who occasionally contradicted himself.

Apr 04 2011 | Read Full Review of Great Soul

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