Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Gandhi - His Life and Message for the World

by Louis Fischer

Men and women and children knew, or felt, that when Gandhi fell by the assassin’s three bullets the conscience of mankind had been left without a spokesman.

Louis Fischer clearly loved Mahatma Gandhi. An entire nation loved him. How could such a tiny little man impress the world in such a way? Before I read this book I knew next to nothing about him. Only that he had strange diet practices (“Many such experiments taught me that the real seat of taste was not in the tongue but in the mind,”) was obsessed with spinning, and that he loved peace and India (“Prejudice cannot be removed by legislation…They yield only to patient toil and education.”)

This book spans his entire life, from his birth in 1869, to his schooling in England and time spent in South Africa, his many years in India, and finally his death in 1948. He did a great many things for his country, for their eventual independence from Great Britain, and most especially for the poorest among them. Even though this book deals very strongly with Gandhi’s philosophies - the history of his life being secondary, I still saw the underlying weakness of the man and his deep sense to overcome it, through his diet; through his fasting to make a point; through his celibacy. Through sheer will, he was able to overcome many obstacles, but he was not perfect. A foreigner once asked him, “How is your family?”

“All of India is my family,” Gandhi replied. Great men often make poor husbands and fathers. He was no exception, but by the end of this book I couldn’t help but forgive the man his faults. India may still have been under British rule today if not for his influence one hundred years ago. Can any person, no matter how small and meek change a nation? By the end of this book I felt that yes, they can. With all that's going on in the world today, I long for another Gandhi to reappear. No one seems willing to take up the mantle again. At least not yet. 3 stars


Stephanie said...

Great review! You've really captured the essence of Gandhi. This book does an excellent job of expounding on his philosophies. I feel like I understand him better (which isn't saying much, because, like you, I knew very little of the man).

This book didn't give me a great feel for the events in his early life - it covers the struggle for Indian independence pretty thoroughtly, but I would like to know more about what Gandhi was like as a child/young man and what he did in South Africa. Someday, I think I'll try another biography about him.

Lula O said...

Your review was ten times better than mine girlie. It took me forever to figure out what to say about this book. I'm glad I've read it, but doubt I shall darken its pages again. There's a wishy-washy answer for ya.