Gandhi Was a Big Jerk, Perv

Biography seeks to end hagiography of the leader of Indian independence
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2011 8:48 AM CDT
Mohandas Ghandi Biography: Book Says Indian Independence Leader Was Politically Inept, Self-Important, Sexually Deviant
Indian leader Mohandas K. Gandhi comes under fire in a new biography, Great Soul.    (AP Photo/File)

(Newser) – Mohandas Gandhi may have been a great man, leading India to independence, but he was also a great jerk, leading a life of racism, self-promotion, sexual weirdness, and cruelty—or so says the new biography Great Soul, by former New York Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld. Gandhi's early biographers dubbed him a "moral demi-god," but Lelyveld's book shows a much more human image. "Gandhi was therefore the archetypal 20th-century progressive intellectual," writes Andrew Roberts in his review in the Wall Street Journal, "professing his love for mankind as a concept while actually despising people as individuals."

Among the key points in Great Soul:

  • India's independence could have been achieved much earlier if Gandhi had not kept abandoning his civil disobedience campaigns at critical points.
  • Gandhi expressed much racism throughout his life, against blacks in South Africa, Muslims, and low-caste "untouchables" in India. Comparing white Afrikaaners and Indians, he said, "We believe as much in the purity of races as we think they do."
  • In his later years, Gandhi liked to sleep naked with a 17-year-old great-niece and other girls.
  • But early in his life, Gandhi loved men, specifically German-Jewish architect and bodybuilder Hermann Kallenbach, for whom he left his wife in 1908.
(Read more Mahatma Gandhi stories.)

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