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Gandhi: A Memoir

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At the beginning of the 1930s, historian William L. Shirer was sent to India by the Chicago Tribune to cover the rise of the Independence Movement. During this time Shirer was privileged to observe Mahatma Gandhi as he launched the Civil Disobedience Campaign and to enjoy his personal friendship and confidence. In this fascinating memoir, Shirer writes perceptively and unfo At the beginning of the 1930s, historian William L. Shirer was sent to India by the Chicago Tribune to cover the rise of the Independence Movement. During this time Shirer was privileged to observe Mahatma Gandhi as he launched the Civil Disobedience Campaign and to enjoy his personal friendship and confidence. In this fascinating memoir, Shirer writes perceptively and unforgettably about Gandhi's frailties as well as his accomplishments. Despite his greatness, Gandhi was the first to admit that he was a human being with his own prejudices and peculiarities: he could be stubborn and dictatorial, yet the magnificence of the man rose above all else. "Gandhi: A Memoir" sheds a special light on the man who left such an indelible imprint on India and the world.


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At the beginning of the 1930s, historian William L. Shirer was sent to India by the Chicago Tribune to cover the rise of the Independence Movement. During this time Shirer was privileged to observe Mahatma Gandhi as he launched the Civil Disobedience Campaign and to enjoy his personal friendship and confidence. In this fascinating memoir, Shirer writes perceptively and unfo At the beginning of the 1930s, historian William L. Shirer was sent to India by the Chicago Tribune to cover the rise of the Independence Movement. During this time Shirer was privileged to observe Mahatma Gandhi as he launched the Civil Disobedience Campaign and to enjoy his personal friendship and confidence. In this fascinating memoir, Shirer writes perceptively and unforgettably about Gandhi's frailties as well as his accomplishments. Despite his greatness, Gandhi was the first to admit that he was a human being with his own prejudices and peculiarities: he could be stubborn and dictatorial, yet the magnificence of the man rose above all else. "Gandhi: A Memoir" sheds a special light on the man who left such an indelible imprint on India and the world.

30 review for Gandhi: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Amit Kurien

    As an Indian grown-up in post-independence India, I learnt about the great man and his formidable aides (Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Sarojini Naidu et al.) only through history books, articles by other Indians of the post-independence India, through newspapers, talks - all forums where M. K. Gandhi is spoken of always as someone who along with other freedom fighters got it all correct, and sorted for India. Reading Shirer after such an experience makes for good reading of Gandhi. What o As an Indian grown-up in post-independence India, I learnt about the great man and his formidable aides (Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Sarojini Naidu et al.) only through history books, articles by other Indians of the post-independence India, through newspapers, talks - all forums where M. K. Gandhi is spoken of always as someone who along with other freedom fighters got it all correct, and sorted for India. Reading Shirer after such an experience makes for good reading of Gandhi. What one gets in the book is a the portrait of a less saintly (albeit greatly respected) person. Gandhi - the human, the politician, the shrewd strategist, a co-worker, a leader - an amalgamation of personality types that was needed to first understand the diversity of India before retreiving her from the hands of the British. Shirer makes us understand how Mahatma Gandhi along with the other members of the Indian National Congress (but sometimes single-handedly) tried to acquire both India and what is today Pakistan from the British. The anecdotes about and the roles that Nehru, Patel, Naidu and Jinnah assumed are also well explicated and make good biographical sketches. A very interesting read. For further reading on India and to know what happened, and is happening to the country that Gandhi aspired for, it is worth trying out Sunil Khilnani's 'The Idea of India' and Guha's 'India after Gandhi'.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    I became very interested in Gandhi during high school. Revolution was in the air, had been in the air throughout the post-war period, since before my birth, but it had come home by the time I entered secondary school. The enormity of the unnecessary suffering in the world was staggering and my country was responsible for much of it. While I gave an ear to all revolutionary movements and radicals promoting solutions, Gandhi was especially appealing in that he had actually participated in leading I became very interested in Gandhi during high school. Revolution was in the air, had been in the air throughout the post-war period, since before my birth, but it had come home by the time I entered secondary school. The enormity of the unnecessary suffering in the world was staggering and my country was responsible for much of it. While I gave an ear to all revolutionary movements and radicals promoting solutions, Gandhi was especially appealing in that he had actually participated in leading one through nonviolent means. William Shirer goes further back, to reading his Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in elementary school. I'd liked it then and when I found he'd written a memoir of Gandhi, the purchase was inescapable. As it happened, Shirer had, in addition to his duties in Europe, been assigned for a time to cover the independence movement in the subcontinent. The youngest of the reporters covering the matter, Gandhi had taken him under his wing, giving him access denied others. This book is both a reminiscence of that association and a biography of Gandhi. Shirer is critical of many of Gandhi's beliefs and practices, yet it is obvious that he was in awe of, even loved, the man. Indeed, towards the end of his book--and this towards the end of his life--he notes that despite his career of studying the prominent people of the world, Gandhi was the one he most respected. One brief anecdote is worth recalling. In the twenties, on his way to the UK, Gandhi stopped in Italy for an audience with Mussolini. It was attended by the Duce and his sons, one of whom sniggered at the little old man in rags and sandals accompanied by a goat. Afterwards, Gandhi having departed Mussolini slapped the boy, saying, "This little man you laugh at has brought the British Empire to its knees!"

  3. 5 out of 5

    Doug Wilhelm

    I've had this paperback for a while, not sure where I found it -- but I picked it up while recovering from covid-19 and was completely engrossed. In the early 1930s, William Shirer was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune who was covering the turbulent rise of fascism in Europe when he was dispatched to India, to report on something totally new to him -- Mahatma Gandhi's leadership of a political movement unlike any in history. As the inspirational leading light of India's Congress Party, Gandhi h I've had this paperback for a while, not sure where I found it -- but I picked it up while recovering from covid-19 and was completely engrossed. In the early 1930s, William Shirer was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune who was covering the turbulent rise of fascism in Europe when he was dispatched to India, to report on something totally new to him -- Mahatma Gandhi's leadership of a political movement unlike any in history. As the inspirational leading light of India's Congress Party, Gandhi had remade the party, from an elite advocate for India's liberation into a nationwide movement that was uniting all of India's largely illiterate, poverty-strangled millions, using Gandhi's revolutionary tactic of nonviolent "soul force" to shame and alarm the country's British colonizers. This was the movement that would, just after World War II, bring about the nation's liberation, commence the ending of the colonial era around the world, and inspire the American civil rights movement to come. Shirer was fascinated by Gandhi, and as the only American reporter on the scene, he grew close to this most unique and, in many ways, most effective leader of the whole 20th century. His on-the-ground account of his time covering Gandhi and his movement, capped by reflections on its final outcome and Gandhi's enigmatic last years and final legacy, are well worth reading for anyone who is searching for inspiration and hope in another time of violence and confusion.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Wilson Bell

    AMAZING

  5. 5 out of 5

    Appu

    William Shirer is today remembered as the author of the monumental book, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich". However before he moved to Europe to cover the war looming in the horizon, he was the India correspondent of the Chicago Tribune. He came to cover the Gandhi Irwin talks of the early 30s and stayed on in India till the end of the 2nd Round Table Conference (1932) which was attended by Gandhi. He developed a close personal association with Gandhi and other leaders of the national movem William Shirer is today remembered as the author of the monumental book, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich". However before he moved to Europe to cover the war looming in the horizon, he was the India correspondent of the Chicago Tribune. He came to cover the Gandhi Irwin talks of the early 30s and stayed on in India till the end of the 2nd Round Table Conference (1932) which was attended by Gandhi. He developed a close personal association with Gandhi and other leaders of the national movement. Even after his departure from India, Shirer continued to follow India affairs and to correspond with Gandhi. This book is mostly about the political developments of the early 30s. Shirer's account is impartial. Gandhi comes across as a shrewd politician who can be dictatorial when situation demands. We see a Gandhi struggling to keep the national movement together amidst challenges from minority groups like Dalits and Muslims. Shirer certainly admired Gandhi but his account remains objective. He is not afraid to discuss the less savoury aspects of Gandhi's personal life. This first person account of the National movement is certainly valuable . Surprisingly, this book is little known and even less read is India. It deserves a wider readership.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    This book is an interesting introduction to Gandhi. It was written by the international news correspondent of the old school William Shirer who, apparently fairly open minded and liberal in nature, actually seemed to "get" Gandhi on a certain level and obviously admired and respected him greatly. Though Shirer's actual personal contact with Gandhi was limited to a brief period of time during 1930-32, he remained in persoanl correspondence with him throughout the rest of his life and, of course, h This book is an interesting introduction to Gandhi. It was written by the international news correspondent of the old school William Shirer who, apparently fairly open minded and liberal in nature, actually seemed to "get" Gandhi on a certain level and obviously admired and respected him greatly. Though Shirer's actual personal contact with Gandhi was limited to a brief period of time during 1930-32, he remained in persoanl correspondence with him throughout the rest of his life and, of course, he followed the "news" of Gandhi and the Indian independence movement closely. That caveat aside the book is a good introduction to Gandhi and the people who were closest to him in his struggle. Shirer also presents a fairly anti-Colonialist view of the British in India and the picture we get of how India was colonized bears eerie resemblance to how we occupied and then privatized Iraq after the invasion. I would say, for me, this was the best part of the book. Reading about and then realizing how very like our own imperialist endeavours were these older imperialist schemes. India was essentially "privatized" under Crown supervision and run by a private corporation with its own "private" army until the Mutiny of 1857 when Queen Vistoria stepped in and officially made Inida one of the "colonies". As Gandhi often pointed out - India had for centuries a fairly high standard of living and it was the Brtish occupation which ruined it and impoverished it for the benefit of goverment supported private companies. You should read it if you wish to understand where the USA is now in terms of foreign policy.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Matt Gunderson

    Can't remember any book that I've read in the recent years that has touched me so deeply. Absolutely beautiful. Can't remember any book that I've read in the recent years that has touched me so deeply. Absolutely beautiful.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Yew Han

    The book and author successfully delivers the experience of witnessing the journey of Gandhi’s cause in the light of a personal aide. The storytelling aspect, especially the cliffhangers were done moderately and harmoniously. The footnotes from the after creation editing presumably, delivers a greater context and insight towards the subject and presents a greater overview of the matter, incorporating various parties and their input. With all of these components in play, reading this is as if wat The book and author successfully delivers the experience of witnessing the journey of Gandhi’s cause in the light of a personal aide. The storytelling aspect, especially the cliffhangers were done moderately and harmoniously. The footnotes from the after creation editing presumably, delivers a greater context and insight towards the subject and presents a greater overview of the matter, incorporating various parties and their input. With all of these components in play, reading this is as if watching a documentary created by Martin Scorsese. The downside for the book and the author however, is in the objectivity of the presentation. While disclaimers were given beforehand, the ratio of admiration versus the humanisation of Gandhi was unhealthily skewed towards the former. Understanding that the book set out to be a memoir, and if that’s the case, there should be more integration of matters that are outside of the cause, as to reflect who Gandhi truly is as a person, and the deeds performed both good and bad.

  9. 5 out of 5

    V. Subhash

    William L. Shirer mentions Gandhi slept with naked women to test his will power. I don’t recall reading this in Gandhi’s autobiography. Even based on other accounts, it seems that Gandhi was at worst a fetishist. Though it is unlikely that Gandhi would have deliberately pursued the girls against their will, he seems to have taken advantage of them. Everything else that Gandhi preached and did was right – from ahimsa to village economy to letting Jinnah get lost with Pakistan.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ian McGaffey

    This was a great read a look at the life if an amazing man. Though not without faults he was tenacious in his pursuit of his life goal. It was interesting to read the perspective of someone who met him and ultimately was changed by his affiliation with Ghandi.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Very readable. Complete but with personal touch.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Riley

    A memoir of Gandhi by a journalist who greatly admired him -- William Shirer, the author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and other books about the horrors of Nazi Germany.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Halina

    What a funny, witty, charming, passionate, amazing,intelligent human being .......always believing in TRUTH

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Tra

    A close personal look at Gandhi's struggle to gain freedom for India. The book loses something in last chapter,just an opinion A close personal look at Gandhi's struggle to gain freedom for India. The book loses something in last chapter,just an opinion

  15. 4 out of 5

    Omkar Mankame

    Shirer, the American journalist, covered Gandhi's life from 1930 to 1932. It is an intriguing read because the book unveils a few stories of the Mahatma which are not often told. Shirer, the American journalist, covered Gandhi's life from 1930 to 1932. It is an intriguing read because the book unveils a few stories of the Mahatma which are not often told.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Monisha

    An amazing book by the author.. A first hand insight into the thoughts of the great leader.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Celeste

    Let me qualify the 3 stars. This subject of Gandhi's life is the most incredible cake served in the styrofoam cup of this book. The cake proved a bit difficult to eat. Why? Well, major lack of sentence fluency. AND major overabundance of words per sentence. (I give two sentences at the bottom of my review as examples.) I wonder if Shirer was a bit ADD. Or perhaps I don't understand his journalism style of writing. Either is possible. However, the content must have overcome the distracting writin Let me qualify the 3 stars. This subject of Gandhi's life is the most incredible cake served in the styrofoam cup of this book. The cake proved a bit difficult to eat. Why? Well, major lack of sentence fluency. AND major overabundance of words per sentence. (I give two sentences at the bottom of my review as examples.) I wonder if Shirer was a bit ADD. Or perhaps I don't understand his journalism style of writing. Either is possible. However, the content must have overcome the distracting writing style for me--I did finish the book. Now on to Gandhi. The film inspired me to learn more about him. I appreciate the more comprehensive explanation of Gandhi's religious views I got from reading this book. I also enjoyed knowing more particulars of his political work. I especially liked the conversations the author included. I was surprised (and rather shocked) at the presented opinion of Winston Churchill on Gandhi. Now I mean to learn more about Churchill. Oh, and the Goodreads summary of this book needs to be rewritten. It seems to be summarizing another book. Writing that's like a long commute home in 5 o'clock traffic with a teenager driving a stick-shift: Example #1: "In a harsh, cynical, violent and materialist world he taught and showed that love and truth and non-violence, ideas and ideals, could be of tremendous force---greater sometimes than guns bombs and bayonets--in achieving a little justice, decency, peace and freedom for the vast masses of suffering, downtrodden men and women who eke out an existence on this inhospitable planet." Distracting?? I think so. Example #2 "For those of us who glimpsed, however briefly, Gandhi's use of it [non-violent action and love:], who had the luck, for however short a time, to be in his radiant presence and to feel his greatness--and not many of us are still alive, as I write--it was an experience that enriched and deepened our lives as no other did." A few sentences in the book were shorter than this, but not many. There were even a few twice the length and double the commas of these passages. Ah!

  18. 4 out of 5

    The Final Chapter

    High 3. This is an interesting eye-witness account from the author who was sent by the Chicago Tribune to cover Gandhi's Civil Disobedience Movement between 1930-32. Shirer provides an insightful memoir which displays the inspirational yet contradictory figure who so tormented the British Empire's hold on the 'jewel in the crown'. The author captures the amazing scenes of the vast crowds who surged dangerously to see their saviour and the endless energy and enthusiasm of this elderly iconic figur High 3. This is an interesting eye-witness account from the author who was sent by the Chicago Tribune to cover Gandhi's Civil Disobedience Movement between 1930-32. Shirer provides an insightful memoir which displays the inspirational yet contradictory figure who so tormented the British Empire's hold on the 'jewel in the crown'. The author captures the amazing scenes of the vast crowds who surged dangerously to see their saviour and the endless energy and enthusiasm of this elderly iconic figure. Yet, Shirer also reveals the contradictions that Gandhi embodied, and the frustrations of Nehru at trying to accomodate his own agenda for a socialist modern India with this necessary figurehead who still clung to traditional Hinduist beliefs. One such contradiction lay in Gandhi's adherence to the principles behind the caste system while, simultaneously, fearlessly striving to remove the stain of untouchability from Hindu society. Shirer also vividly captures the grief with which Gandhi confronted religious tension between the Hindu and Moslem communities, and the calculating use of such tensions by the British to undermine the independence movement. The most interesting accounts concern the British reactions to this frail yet magnetic figure both at their summer retreat at Simla in the mountains, and when Gandhi arrived on these shores to attend talks aimed at resolving the crisis in the autumn of 1931.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    This book gave me a better grasp of Gandhi's life - and particularly his political contributions. It is written from an American's perspective. Shirer was a reporter from the Chicago Tribune assigned to travel with and cover's Gandhi's activities. It seems that Gandhi took a liking to Shirer thus he was given a unique window into Gandhi's daily life and thoughts. The author is effusive in his praise for Gandhi - though he is also honest about some of Gandhi's idiosyncracies and contradictions. This book gave me a better grasp of Gandhi's life - and particularly his political contributions. It is written from an American's perspective. Shirer was a reporter from the Chicago Tribune assigned to travel with and cover's Gandhi's activities. It seems that Gandhi took a liking to Shirer thus he was given a unique window into Gandhi's daily life and thoughts. The author is effusive in his praise for Gandhi - though he is also honest about some of Gandhi's idiosyncracies and contradictions.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mychal V

    I started reading this book because I have always been interested in Gandhi's civil-disobedience and nonviolence movements against the British. I never really knew much about his country's circumstances until having read this book. It was an interesting background of the lives of those in India throughout the early to mid 1900s. The book offered a great background and story of Gandhi, but it did get a little too graphic at the end when it discussed the Mahatama's sex life...Otherwise, I really l I started reading this book because I have always been interested in Gandhi's civil-disobedience and nonviolence movements against the British. I never really knew much about his country's circumstances until having read this book. It was an interesting background of the lives of those in India throughout the early to mid 1900s. The book offered a great background and story of Gandhi, but it did get a little too graphic at the end when it discussed the Mahatama's sex life...Otherwise, I really learned a lot from the book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Raj

    William Shirer covers the important time of Indian and Gandhi history. During the 1931-32, Gandhi had to deal with Irwin and Willington in India, plus the second round table conference where the British's politics and the several Indian self appointed groups pettiness sowed the seeds for the 1947 bloodshed. Shirer throws light on those events. He records the firsthand accounts without any prejudice or taking sides. He also records his criticisms about Gandhi's some of the disturbing experiments. William Shirer covers the important time of Indian and Gandhi history. During the 1931-32, Gandhi had to deal with Irwin and Willington in India, plus the second round table conference where the British's politics and the several Indian self appointed groups pettiness sowed the seeds for the 1947 bloodshed. Shirer throws light on those events. He records the firsthand accounts without any prejudice or taking sides. He also records his criticisms about Gandhi's some of the disturbing experiments. An important book to understand Gandhi.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    Ghandi is amazing because he peacefully overthrew the strongest imperialist force in the world and a large country to democracy. I wanted to know more about this feat, and this book described the relationship between this American news reporter and Ghandi. Ghandi accomplished his goals by working hard, knowing what was right, and being typically Indian. He set examples for many other civil rights leaders, who like he, suffered persecution and still won their ideals.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mia

    Provides a fairly even-handed story of an American journalist's friendship with Mahatma Gandhi, and examines the cultural, political and interpersonal environs in which he moved and lived. Useful as a primer in modern Indian history, since one rarely gets a perspective on Gandhi or the struggle for Indian independence (or the creation of Pakistan) from most casual awareness of history. Provides a fairly even-handed story of an American journalist's friendship with Mahatma Gandhi, and examines the cultural, political and interpersonal environs in which he moved and lived. Useful as a primer in modern Indian history, since one rarely gets a perspective on Gandhi or the struggle for Indian independence (or the creation of Pakistan) from most casual awareness of history.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Carlin

    Perfect. Shirer is the best possible primary source to tell Westerners about the great Eastern man. I found this book a delightful, relatively easy read, and I feel like I learned a lot from it, not just about history, but about life.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sheila

    William Shirer's memoir about the year he spend with Gandhi in India. Not the best book I've read by Shirer, but good nevertheless. I am not sure Gandhi's ideas were quite as good as Shirer believed, but it was good enough that now I have to read Gandhi's biography. William Shirer's memoir about the year he spend with Gandhi in India. Not the best book I've read by Shirer, but good nevertheless. I am not sure Gandhi's ideas were quite as good as Shirer believed, but it was good enough that now I have to read Gandhi's biography.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    This was really cool to hear from William's point of view - he was really even handed and did a good job describing what happened behind the scenes. This was really cool to hear from William's point of view - he was really even handed and did a good job describing what happened behind the scenes.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Neuschwander

    Engaging portrait of a remarkable man.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    A good read, but I have never read another book about the man so I feel like I am missing info about his childhood and early years too.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    A mostly political biography of one of the most dynamic and far-sighted leaders of this Century, from the author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jean Marie Angelo

    A worthy read. Bears rereading some day.

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