In This Review

Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914–1948
Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914–1948
By Ramachandra Guha
Knopf, 2018, 1104 pp

This second and final volume of Guha’s huge, definitive biography of Mahatma Gandhi draws on every imaginable source, including a recently opened archive of letters to and from Gandhi. The narrative is dramatic and detailed, with little explicit judgment or analysis. Vivid impressions emerge: of Gandhi’s restless energy and frequent bouts of ill health; of his willingness to treat his wife, children, helpers, and followers as instruments of his will; of his hold over all sectors of India’s fissiparous population; and of the restraint with which the British treated him despite their anger at his constant troublemaking. Guha reveals Gandhi’s inconsistencies and confusions, as well as his titanic self-regard. Many other talented contenders for leadership in India disapproved of his behavior and politics. But Gandhi had remarkable success in promoting his idiosyncratic views on economics, caste, diet, sexuality, and political action. Although he failed to heal the tragic rift between Hindus and Muslims, he did much to create the overarching sense of national identity that has so far held India together.