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Iconoclastic biography of Gandhi

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In a book published this week, author Joseph Lelyveld examines South Africa’s impact on the philosophy and actions of Mahatma Gandhi.

From 1891 to 1915, Mohandas K. Gandhi practiced as a lawyer in South Africa. He defended the rights of the Indian minority who, Gandhi believed, should be entitled to the same status as white South Africans within the segregationist system. It wasn’t until after the end of World War I that he abandoned this racist conception of society.

Great Soul : Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India, which has met with scathing criticism, discloses a facet of his private life that will modify more than one interpretation of Mahatma’s personality.

During his South-African period, Mohandas K. Gandhi had a love affair with a Jewish German architect, Hermann Kallenbach, whom he had met in 1908. Joseph Lelyveld quotes correspondence from Gandhi to his lover that leaves no room for doubt.

Joseph Lelyveld was foreign editor and executive editor of the New York Times where he worked for nearly 40 years. He won the Pulitzer Prize for a book on the history of South Africa.

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