A new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning former editor of The New York Times Joseph Lelyveld has quoted correspondence to suggest that Mahatma Gandhi was in love with Hermann Kallenbach, a male bodybuilder and German-Jewish architect.
In The Telegraph, UK:
“Gandhi wrote to Kallenbach about ‘how completely you have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance’,” the book said, going on to claim that Gandhi nicknamed himself “Upper House” and Kallenbach “Lower House.”
It goes on: “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.’”
In The Indian Express:
When contacted in New York by The Indian Express, Lelyveld said that the correspondence between Gandhi and Kallenbach is “amply documented” in the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi published by the Navajivan Trust (a publishing house founded by Mahatma Gandhi).
“Of course, there are only letters from Gandhi to Kallenbach and none from Kallenbach to him in Volume 4 or 5 of the Collected Works,” he said.
Lelyveld, 74, said he was aware that he had stumbled upon “sensitive material” when he first read the letters. “I knew this was delicate material and I approached it with a great deal of respect. I was very careful about this subject and this is the first book to deal extensively with the Kallenbach correspondence and it speculates very carefully upon the letters.”
In The Times of India:
Lelyveld told TOI, “I do not allege that Gandhi is a racist or bisexual in ‘Great Soul’. The word ‘bisexual’ nowhere appears in the book.” He also denied having called Gandhi a racist. “The word ‘racist’ is used once to characterise comments by Gandhi early in his stay in South Africa, part of a chapter summarising his statements about Africans and his relations with them. The chapter in no way concludes that he was a racist or offers any suggestion of it.”
Psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar, one of the first to write on Gandhi’s sexuality in ‘Intimate Relations: Exploring Indian Sexuality’ and later in ‘Mira and Mahatma’, is yet to read the book but has gone through an ocean of archives on Gandhi and says he never discovered anything that the reviewers claim the book consists of.
Kakar remembers finding references to Kallenbach during his research but not the way the reviewers have portrayed it. He says if the book has what reviewers claim then it is plain “stupid.” “Gandhi always talked of complete love but it was of platonic kind,” he says.
And in The Daily Mail and WSJ
Previously in AW: How Gandhi became Gandhi, the review in The New York Times