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Louis Fischer- if any American could do it- is preeminently the person to write a biography of Mahatma Gandhi. An admirer and personal friend, a student of India's history, philosophy and social problems, Fischer has injected a good deal of this as background for better understanding of the extraordinary career of the man, the leader, the saint. In the main, the early years are based on Gandhi's own autobiography -- and on interviews with people who knew him in youth. He traces the influences of childhood training -- his changing point of view -- his child marriage, and its subsequent emotional tensions, griefs and joys. The period in England was not a happy one -- but something to be endured and experience drawn therefrom. Then Africa- and new horizons -- and a new Gandhi, a man who dared fight for what he felt was the right, a man who developed new techniques and won what seemed then victory for the downtrodden Indian in South Africa. Gandhi returned a hero to an Indian he scarcely knew, and the years of learning were not easy ones. Gandhi had adopted two basic tenets, the one that proved for many years a thorn in the English flesh, civil disobedience; and in his private life, an austerity that extended far beyond the vegetarianism he had almost advocated, and the chastity he imposed on himself and his wife, to embrace rules of conduct for not only his family but that larger family of his followers. In the years that followed, Mahatma Gandhi, was the champion of the downtrodden, the spiritual leader of his country, the actual leader of the Indian National Congress party, the spearhead of opposition to Jinnah's theory of Pakistan. Repeatedly he used the technique of the fast to bend the British- the Indians, to his will. He taught the principle of native crafts, spinning in particular. He dramatized his resistance- his determination to win for India independence of British rule. And in the end, the victory should have been his, but because of partition, he withdrew from active participation in its implementation, though in rebuke to the internal strife between Moslem and Hindoo, he risked death in one of his longest fasts, and won surcease in limited areas at least. Fischer may have gone beyond the province of a biographer in reading motives and thoughts into Gandhi's mind, but so steeped is he in the Gandhi philosophy, that his writing has the ring of authenticity. Not always easy- but usually rewarding reading.

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1950
Publisher: Harper