In The Telegraph:
This week, the National Archives here in New Delhi released a set of letters between Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and a close friend from his South African days, Hermann Kallenbach, a German Jewish architect. Cue a set of ludicrous “Gay Gandhi” headlines across the world, wondering whether the fact the Mahatma signed some letters “Sinly yours” might be a clue (seemingly unaware that “sinly” was once a common contraction of “sincerely”).
The origin of this rumour was a mischievous book review two years ago written by the historian Andrew Roberts, which speculated about the relationship between the men. On the basis of the written evidence, it seems unlikely that their friendship in the years leading up to the First World War was physical.
Gandhi is one of the best-documented figures of the pre-electronic age. He has innumerable biographies. If he managed to be gay without anyone noticing until now, it was a remarkable feat. The official record of his sayings and writings runs to more than 90 volumes, and reveals that his last words before being assassinated in 1948 were not an invocation to God, as is commonly reported, but the more prosaic: “It irks me if I am late for prayers even by a minute.” More:
Hari Kunzru in The New York Times. [Hari Kunzru is the author of three novels. His next, “Gods Without Men,” will be published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2012]:
Few figures seem more remote from contemporary India than Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Mahatma, or “Great Soul,” who spearheaded the struggle for independence. Gandhi’s beloved rural poor figure only intermittently in the consciousness of a country now focused on call centers, software entrepreneurs and movie stars. In the cities the Gandhian ideals of service, self-denial and universal uplift have been drowned out by the aggressive nationalism and shiny consumer culture of India’s urban boom.
In this context, Joseph Lelyveld’s judicious and thoughtful new book, “Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India,” seems almost eccentric, devoted as it is to explaining the evolution of a social and moral philosophy that, 60 years after the end of the British Raj, has lost the attention of the nation it once enthralled.
Mr. Lelyveld (once a New York Times correspondent in India and South Africa and later the newspaper’s executive editor) teases out the forces that transformed a sheltered young Gujurati Hindu lawyer from a conservative merchant caste into the Mahatma, a figure part politician and part saint, who renewed the ancient tradition of Hindu asceticism in the hope not just of political independence, but also of a social and spiritual transformation based in the Indian villages. More: