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Book Review 101: Louis Fischer’s Engaging Read – The Life of Mahatma Gandhi

mahatma gandhi louis fisher history

(Mahatma Gandhi – One short heavy stuff but don’t mind me, I am just having a fever – I can, in fact, write weird stuff. Image source: Wikipedia)

Gandhi – I recall “meeting” him for the first time in my grandpa’s house back in the 70s. He was up on the wall with a golden frame. My grandpa must have had the greatest respect for this old man with frame spectacles. At my age then, I use to think that the old man in the photo was my great, great grandfather.

Having a fever for the past few days has given me an opportunity to catch up on some of the books that have been lying idle in my bookshelf (ya, I have yet to touch the book by Tolkien). One of them is the biography titled The Life of Mahatma Gandhi by Louis Fischer.

Just like the movie, Fischer starts off the book with the assassination and it is explained in detail and all the way, where the Mahatma goes down chanting “Rama, Rama, Rama”.

An excellent read indeed and it is nothing like what you have seen in the movie Gandhi although Sir Richard Attenborough (now a Baron) was, in fact, was inspired by Louis Fischer’s book (you can see his note on the cover as well) to do the movie. I recall buying the book couple of years ago when it was reprinted in conjunction with India’s 50th independence day.

It only cost me RM29.90 back then and it was a cheap bargain (then again, anything less than RM30.00 is a cheap bargain).

mahatma gandhi louis fisher history richard attenborough

(Richard Attenborough directing on the set which won him the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director. Image Source:

Louis Fischer, who spent his time with Gandhi prior to the independence of India, put forward a book that is not in the form of a storybook but rather in the form of intellectual articles. The biography was first published in 1950. There are stories about Gandhi’s earlier years, his time in South Africa, his thoughts on certain issues and the impact of Gandhism on his wife and children (especially on his eldest son).

Ya, it may sound “heavy” especially when you are down with a fever and flu but the language of the book is fairly simple and easy to follow although Fischer tends to move back and fro in time depending on the content of the chapter. There are very little photos in the book except for a couple of it somewhere in the middle, so you have no other choice but to read through each of the words to understand.

It is interesting to understand the things that made a big impact on Gandhi – things like Tolstoy’s literature, poems from both Western and Indian poets, his mother, the British and so on. Gandhi also ventured into vegetarianism at the beginning due to his mother request and the later when he had very little money to spend when he was studying in London. Gandhi was, in fact, experimenting with a lot of issues and somehow managed to perfect it once he had returned to India.

In the movie Gandhi, you would not have noticed this but in the book, Fischer managed to show several instances where Gandhi tried on several ideas (on brotherhood, struggle against the government and on maintaining his way of life) and failed miserably. He either dropped such ideas altogether or varied to practice it.

However, in the end, his core struggle focused on India being free – both externally (i.e. from the British) and internally (from religious differences and caste issue). Although he was the Father of India, not everyone agreed with his ideas but at the same time, was not willing to be known as the person who defied Gandhi.

The book, coupled with Attenborough’s movie and other resources from the internet makes an almost complete fact about Gandhi and his life. It is a good topic to read when one is down with a fever (what I am saying here!).

I just wished that Fischer would have added more of the “hard to get” photos of Gandhi and India (when it was under British) – that would have explained to visualize certain of his chapters but I guess, back in the 50s, not many were thinking like a blogger.

Oh by the way, in case you did not know, Gandhi came from a family who been in the grocery business for a long time and in fact, the name “Gandhi” means grocer.

Back to my bed now.

3 thoughts on “Book Review 101: Louis Fischer’s Engaging Read – The Life of Mahatma Gandhi”

  1. …..all the books i read…………it was one of the most interesting till now…………..and i am higly obliged to the writer that he has got such a nice imagination………..///////////////////>>>>>>>>In todays world no body remembers Mahatma Gandhi but after reading this book at least morethan half people will think on him and will try to change their behaviuor…………………………………i am very glad that i somehow got the opportunity to read on this book………………………

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