GANDHI’S PASSION by Stanley Wolpert


The Life and Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi
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A dense, comprehensive survey of the events in Gandhi’s life, tracing his metamorphosis from pampered child of privilege to “great soul.”

Galvanized by India's recent embrace of nuclear weaponry, so contrary to Gandhi’s teachings, Wolpert (Nehru, 1996) has set out to trace the life of this nonviolent visionary. He cogently illustrates how circumstances transformed ambitious, principled Mohandas Gandhi, son of the prime minister of a princely Indian state, into a Mahatma (an Indian term for “great soul”) who renounced all material and sensual pleasures. Beginning with Gandhi’s unlooked-for awakening in London (where he was much impressed by British traditions of law and equality), and continuing through the coalescing of his activist bent in South Africa, Wolpert quotes extensively from Gandhi’s books, articles, and letters, all of which provide a good deal of insight into his motivations. Yet a biographer can only go so far in explaining the political genius that, coupled with intense fortitude and resolve, enabled Gandhi to devise so many methods of nonviolent resistance. Something indefinable drove him to action wherever he perceived injustice—from taxes imposed on the Indian community in the Transvaal to the plight of indigo-farming peasants in India to the British occupation of the subcontinent itself (and its subsequent bloody division into the two nations of India and Pakistan). Gandhi was still working for peace, begging Hindus and Muslims to stop the massacres, when he was assassinated in 1948. Although Wolpert’s admiration for his subject is so fervent as to be occasionally distracting, this is on balance a clear-eyed chronicle of an exemplary life.

Appropriately complex biography, deftly maintaining a balance of sophistication and explication.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-19-513060-X
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2001


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