Mahatma Karamchand Gandhi: The name has inspired countless people and nonviolent protests. But a new book about the iconic activist, Great Soul, by former New York Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld, suggests that the great soul could also be a jerk sometimes. Or, more specifically, that, while accomplished, Gandhi was "a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent, a fanatical faddist, implacably racist, and a ceaseless self-promoter, professing his love for mankind as a concept while actually despising people as individuals," according to a Wall Street Journal review of Great Soul. Oh, okay, then.
For one thing, Gandhi allegedly bought up the whole first edition of his first biography in order to ensure a reprint. When working on the book, he also insisted that journalists file "not the words that had actually come from his mouth but a version he authorized after heavy editing," according to Great Soul.
Then there's his alleged racist views against South African blacks. "We were marched off to a prison intended for Kaffirs," Gandhi complained during one of his campaigns for the rights of Indians settled there. "We could understand not being classed with whites, but to be placed on the same level as the Natives seemed too much to put up with. Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilized."
According to Lelyveld, Gandi also held "nightly cuddles," nude, with 17-year-old girls in his entourage, including his own niece. That said, "Gandhi's organ probably only rarely became aroused with his naked young ladies, because the love of his life was a German-Jewish architect and bodybuilder, Hermann Kallenbach, for whom Gandhi left his wife in 1908," the Journal's Andrew Roberts writes. According to Great Soul:
"Gandhi wrote to Kallenbach about 'how completely you have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance.' Gandhi nicknamed himself 'Upper House' and Kallenbach 'Lower House,' and he made Lower House promise not to 'look lustfully upon any woman.' The two then pledged 'more love, and yet more love ... such love as they hope the world has not yet seen.'"
Well, at least that part's cute.
Among the Hagiographers [WSJ]