Neither idolatrous nor judgmental, this superb new biography (published last year in Britain) of the ""Great Soul"" is...


GANDHI: Prisoner of Hope

Neither idolatrous nor judgmental, this superb new biography (published last year in Britain) of the ""Great Soul"" is evenhanded and powerful--and will surely stand for a long time as perhaps the best treatment of the Gandhi story. Brown, a British scholar born in India, appears to write for an audience that has sophisticated interests in Gandhi and in the complex cultural, religious, economic, and political history of his times. Of necessity, much of the ground she covers is familiar, but there is fresh insight and new detail. Particularly important is her contribution to a full picture of Gandhi's life in South Africa, where much of his future course became clear to him and where he began to emerge, mysteriously, from the nonentity he was in his youth to the powerful and charismatic leader he became. In Brown's account, the disparate influences upon him are brilliantly interwoven; Kasturbhai, his wife, comes to life better here than elsewhere, as do his relations with his children, teachers, friends, and disciples. Her discussion of traditional family life in Hindu culture and its differences from western custom delicately raises questions about psychoanalytical views of Gandhi's character, which emphasize an unresolved Oedipal conflict; and her attention to Gandhi's own criticism of his ashram followers and dependents takes the edge off some of the sniping against him for the ""crazies"" he attracted. Although Brown follows Gandhi's activities and thought with minute attention, the force of her direction--to portray the voyage of a ""lifelong pilgrim"" and ""a prisoner of hope"" seeking the road to truth--maintains unflagging interest. Gandhi emerges from her examination once again apparently explained but somehow still inexplicable, simple and mysterious, ""a man who asked the profoundest questions that face humankind"" and who, though in the end he did not answer them, ""became a man for all times and all places."" An exhilarating work, temperate, broad-ranging, and newly inspiring.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 1990


Page Count: -

Publisher: Yale Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1990

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