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From the Publisher
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
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.