Gandhi book to hit Indian markets later this month: Author

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Mahatma Gandhi
Boston, Apr 5: Joseph Lelyveld's controversial book on Mahatma Gandhi will be available in India later this month and the author is hopeful that the storm over his work will subside.

The book will be published in India "within less than three weeks" and will be widely available in the country, he said. The Pulitzer prize-winning author said while he currently has no plans to visit India, he "will be interested" in going to the country "if I am invited."

"Those who are interested will read it. This sort of tempest will pass and be forgotten and the book will remain. So I am not particularly worried about it," Lelyveld told PTI here.

Hoping that things "will work out fine" regarding the controversy over his book, the author said he did not reach any conclusion about Gandhi's sexuality in his book 'Great soul: Mahatma Gandhi and his struggle with India'.

The book got embroiled in a controversy in India after a review published in Britain's tabloid Daily Mail said the book claimed that Gandhi was "bisexual" and "deeply in love with Hermann Kallenbach," an architect and bodybuilder who became Gandhi's disciple in South Africa.

Lelyveld has maintained that his book is "not sensationalist," and is based on material already published and available in the National Archives of India. He wished that people read about Gandhi's relationship in the right context.

"There are three paragraphs in my book where I say that it would be easy to caricature Gandhi's relationship with this architect as sexual and I lay out a few points that somebody could use to reach that conclusion. But I don't reach that conclusion and I expected people to read the whole section of what I wrote about their relationship."

Lelyveld said he made it "very clear that it was a loving relationship, very important to Gandhi who even 20 years later was interested in getting Kallenbach to come to his side."

"We don't know enough about Kallenbach to know why he mattered so much to Gandhi. But he very clearly did. There are about a dozen pages devoted to Gandhi and Kallenbach in this whole book which is about 350 pages long and in that dozen pages, there are three paragraphs that fasten on sex and they are not meant to be read just by themselves. They are the beginning of the discussion, not the end of the discussion."

Lelyveld said there was a case of "mistaken identity here" after the book's review went viral on the Internet.

"I am not the Joseph Lelyveld who wrote the book on the secret sex life of Mahatma Gandhi. I am the Lelyweld who wrote - or thought he wrote - a book about Gandhi and his struggle for social justice in India," the author said during a discussion of his book earlier in the city.

The Gujarat government has banned the book, while Maharashtra government is planning to do the same.

He has said he considers Gandhi a great moral example and through his book he meant to be "provocative and not offensive".

"I consider Gandhi a great moral example. What fascinates me about the man and will continue to fascinate future generations in India and beyond is his own restless striving, his persistence in his quest for selflessness, what I find myself calling his moral ambition.

"His conscientious attempt not just to achieve transfer of power from an entrenched imperial ruler but to change a society from inside out and be an agent of that change through his own discipline of sacrifice and reflection."

He said few leaders of the last century have been the subject of more books than Gandhi.

"I think I can claim to have uncovered a compelling story, perhaps even a tragic one" that has always been there below the surface and that is the story of Gandhi's largely unsuccessful struggle for social reforms.

Calling Gandhi "one of history's most remarkable men", Lelyveld said the Indian leader did not "give me a single boring day" during the four years of research that he did for his book.

He says the central theme and focus of the book is Gandhi's struggle "with" India rather than "for" India. "If India has a social conscience and I believe it does, that social conscience still can be called Gandhi."

On the Indian government ruling out imposing a ban on the book, Lelyveld "I think that is a reasonable stand for a democratic government to take."

PTI

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