GANDHI by Martin Green


Voice of a New Age Revolution
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 In a penetrating retelling of the life of the gentle Indian revolutionary, Green (Prophets of a New Age, 1992, etc.) attributes Gandhi's peculiar brand of saintly political activism to his contact, as a law student in London, with what Green calls the ``New Age'' movement--which, the author says, included Tolstoy, Ruskin, G.B. Shaw, and others. The story of Gandhi's life is well known, but, in a genuine contribution to Gandhian scholarship, Green (who previously wrote about the Indian leader in Tolstoy and Gandhi: Men of Peace, 1983) sees Gandhi's Hindu-based devotion to ahimsa (``nonviolence'') as reinforced by his involvement, in London from 1888 to 1891, with some advocates of the New Age. This group of thinkers and writers- -who emphasized vegetarianism, pacifism, harmony with the environment, and spiritual devotion--included Tolstoy (with whom Gandhi corresponded), the vegetarian Henry Salt, and Madame Blavatsky. While Gandhi's vision may seem distinctively Indian, Green sees much of his subject's career as a realization of New Age principles, and as a uniquely British Victorian exercise in heroic myth-making: Green compares Gandhi's long exiles in Britain and South Africa, as well as his spiritual evolution and heroic death, to the careers of such Victorians as David Livingstone and Charles Gordon. Discussing Gandhi's campaigns against British rule and cultural hegemony, Green portrays his subject as a flawed man who aspired to spiritual perfection; who revolutionized India through his campaign of nonviolent noncooperation with British rule; and who, after his death, left a vacuum in India's political and intellectual life. First-rate life that reduces Gandhi to human scale without diminishing his greatness.

Pub Date: July 16th, 1993
ISBN: 0-8264-0620-3
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Continuum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1993


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