Sunday, 10 March 2013
Mahatma Gandhi - An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth
I started reading this because some one Facebook was posting a statement that Gandhi would have supported gun ownership rights in the US after the latest school shooting. I found this so outrageous that I got into a debate where the guy was posting quotes from his autobiography that meant that I couldn't adequately respond without first having read the book. I'm not sure I found the relevant quote but I'm very glad I read the book. I'm sorry to say that until I read this the only knowledge I had of Gandhi was from Richard Attenborough's 1982 bio pic. This was a great film but it leaves so much out.
I had no idea how much time he had spent in both England and South Africa. The film started in South Africa but gives you the impression that this was a brief visit, however the book makes it clear that his last time in South Africa was for something like ten years. Before that he's been to South Africa on a number of occasions fighting for racial equality and he spent three years in London studying for his law degree.
There is a lot in here about his development of ideas such as non violence and passive resistance as well as his thoughts on vegetarianism and health issues. You get a really good idea of him as a political campaigner both as a lawyer and running newspapers. There is also a lot about his efforts to set up various communes and communities.
The only weakness of the book is that it's quite hard to follow the names of people and places as well as the non English terms. Someone has made an attempt to add clarification the text but it's simply not possible with every non English term. It is possible to look them us as you go (most of them have useful pages on Wikipedia that explain them) but after a while it's a bit difficult to keep track of.
Having said that it's still a good read and very enlightening, giving a real insight into the man and his values. The book only goes up to the mid twenties and so doesn't cover the last twenty years of his life but I'd recommend it all the same.