An autobiography: or The story of my experiments with truth

by Mahatma Gandhi

Other authorsMahadev H. Desai (Translator)
Hardcover, 1940



Call number



Ahmedabad, Navajivan Publishing House [1940]

Media reviews

It illumines with candor all the developing phases of a great spirit

User reviews

LibraryThing member ashishg
Everyone must read this book irrespective of whether you agree with him or not. Not because it tells you about one of the greatest man ever lived but because it tells you what makes greatness.
LibraryThing member JackBarrow
I started reading this because some one Facebook was posting a statement that Gandhi would have supported gun ownership rights in the US after the latest school shooting. I found this so outrageous that I got into a debate where the guy was posting quotes from his autobiography that meant that I couldn't adequately respond without first having read the book. I'm not sure I found the relevant quote but I'm very glad I read the book. I'm sorry to say that until I read this the only knowledge I had of Gandhi was from Richard Attenborough's 1982 bio pic. This was a great film but it leaves so much out.

I had no idea how much time he had spent in both England and South Africa. The film started in South Africa but gives you the impression that this was a brief visit, however the book makes it clear that his last time in South Africa was for something like ten years. Before that he's been to South Africa on a number of occasions fighting for racial equality and he spent three years in London studying for his law degree.

There is a lot in here about his development of ideas such as non violence and passive resistance as well as his thoughts on vegetarianism and health issues. You get a really good idea of him as a political campaigner both as a lawyer and running newspapers. There is also a lot about his efforts to set up various communes and communities.

The only weakness of the book is that it's quite hard to follow the names of people and places as well as the non English terms. Someone has made an attempt to add clarification the text but it's simply not possible with every non English term. It is possible to look them us as you go (most of them have useful pages on Wikipedia that explain them) but after a while it's a bit difficult to keep track of.

Having said that it's still a good read and very enlightening, giving a real insight into the man and his values. The book only goes up to the mid twenties and so doesn't cover the last twenty years of his life but I'd recommend it all the same.
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LibraryThing member SajithBuvi
An Amazing life story of an amazing man. The guts shows in the work. He spares none. All aspects of his life is out there for anyone to read. If anyone writes autobiography this how it should be. Otherwise there is no point in writing an autobiography. Gandhi shows us the truth of life must be open to the world to experience the truth.
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LibraryThing member smith54a
He would have had trouble adjusting to the modern movement for women's rights!!
LibraryThing member imamura.s
Gandhi is great man. becouse he contribute india independence. Moreover he action of independence is acocomplished no violence. gandhi`s key word is NO violence NO obedience.
LibraryThing member Carolfoasia
Story of what one man can do without violence. He was a great man, very disciplined and focused in all things. It was very interesting getting an insight into this culture too. It was a worthwhile read with some tedious parts.
LibraryThing member RRHowell
Not the world's most fascinating read, but certainly a fascinating man.
LibraryThing member JBreedlove
A personal account of Ghandi's early years in South Africa and hos path to non-violence. A bit of an odd duck but truly sincere.
LibraryThing member npl
One of the most studied and revered protesters, Gandhi in his own words, is truly inspiring.
LibraryThing member GShuk
Very, very long and boring audio. I did not finish it. It assumes you know the political events and personalities of the day in South Africa, England & India. To much detail of areas that did not seem worth mentioning at all. On the positive side it gave detailed insights into his thought process. It showed things like his lack of confidence when young and his characteristic of sticking to his principles no matter the cost for himself and those he was responsible for. To give an example when his son was deathly sick and the doctors said to give him meat he decided against that in order to stick with his beliefs.… (more)
LibraryThing member fleurdiabolique
Frankly, there are just points at which this book gets annoying. It is not an autobiography in a typical sense; there frequently isn't enough background information provided for the reader to understand the context of events that Gandhi narrates without referencing some other text (or multiple texts). Gandhi himself often comes across as ridiculously puritanical or irritatingly simple and trusting. Both the trustingness and puritanism are integral parts of his philosophy, and I'm not criticizing them as such necessarily, but it does get pretty annoying to read 500 pages of it at times.

That said, if you're really interested in the inner workings of Gandhi's mind, this is an excellent discussion of events that influenced him and ways in which he came to think and believe the things that he did.
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LibraryThing member sruszala
Not riveting, but an important part of my library and education.
LibraryThing member literarysarah
Rather long-winded and preachy - much like the man, I imagine.
LibraryThing member uufnn
The reviewer for The Christian Century wrote of this book: "Here is an autobiography more captivating than fiction and more stimulating than romantic adventure. It is the most revealing study of the human soul that I have ever read." The reviewer for The New Statesman wrote: "An absorbing book that stands alone in frankness and plain honesty. . .Its place among the classics of autobiography cannot be in doubt." Finally the reviewer for Saturday Review wrote: "It is . . .only by reading the whole long and detailed day-by-day record that readers can sense the magic of Ganhi's being and discover him fully."… (more)
LibraryThing member Awdhesh
I must have read this book at least fifteen years ago. This is a great book written by one of the greatest leader of the modern world--Mahatma Gandhi. If you wish to know who Gandhi was, you have no other book like this.
LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
Extremely interesting view of the growth and spiritual development of one of the most illuminating figures of the last century. Covers a wide variety of topics. A shame that it only ends in the 1920s (but what autobiography could ever be called complete?), but it is still a fascinating portrait of the man.
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Gandhi stands as one of the most politically admirable personalities EVER, and this book shows us why. A bit of bore in parts, it nevertheless details his struggles and use of nonviolent demonstrations to liberate his country. Not a book to read for fun, but a necessary one to educate oneself. For all of his faults, he is one of my biggest heroes of all time.… (more)
LibraryThing member RajivC
This book is quaint. He has written the book in a rather simplistic style. He does give some insight into his development, and focusses a lot on his eccentricities.
For some reason, he does not write much about his thoughts and feelings concerning the age of the times, and how he got to where he was.

A good book, but one written by a seasoned politician.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
Gandhi had a profound effect on history. As such, I thought reading his autobiography a must. I knew I had a lot of disagreements with what he believed, big and small, but his attitude as alluded to in his title disarmed me at first. He writes that "far from claiming finality or infallibility" truth is something he believes we seek and learn by testing. At first I found him likeable and admirable. I felt for his struggles with shyness and public speaking. But my respect for his views and my liking for him eroded over the course of his autobiography. I felt his family and especially his wife had a lot to put up with by his own account. And so much of the autobiography was taken up with frankly crackpot notions. Even he calls himself a "crank" at one point and refers to his practice of "quack medicine." That may have been meant ironically but I thought it fit. Long, dull stretches of the narrative were taken up with details of diet and hygiene.

You're not going to get a complete overview of his life and thinking from this work, since he stops the account at 1921 and he lived until 1948. Too often key events would be glossed over and he'd refer the reader to other writings to fill the gap. But having seen the famous film based on his life, it was interesting to read material not covered there from his childhood in India and his time in England as a young man. I was surprised at how accepted he seemed to be studying in England--he didn't relate encountering much color prejudice there--more the opposite--and this was in the late 1880s. It was a very different story in South Africa where he gained his first experience of law practice and political activism. At one time he was literally kicked to the curb as Indians weren't allowed on the pavement. I would have liked to read more about his development of Satyagraha (active non-violent resistance), particularly his use of Civil Disobedience, especially since I know it greatly influenced Martin Luther King. It was interesting to find out Ghandi himself was greatly influenced by Tolstoy's non-violent principles in The Kingdom of God Is Within You. He even called his ashram in South Africa "Tolstoy Farm" and I can see a lot of commonality between the two men. I could wish this was annotated, or at least a glossary provided. There were a lot of Hindu/Indian terms I had to jot down to look up later: ashram, darbar, darshan, dhoti, haveli, vakils, Khilafat, Madras, Parsi, Swaraj, Vaishnavas. Maps would have been nice too. But I found there was value enough in getting a feel for the man that on the whole I found it worth the read.
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LibraryThing member jddunn
I hate to harsh on Gandhi, but this is just interminable. 200 pages in, and most of it has been details of his dietary regimen. I guess this was all integral to the way he lived and how he managed to have the discipline and strength to do what he did, but it’s not very widely applicable or interesting to read. And he skips right over the very stuff I most wanted to learn about, like the story of the Satyagraha movement in South Africa.

There is good and wise and interesting stuff interspersed, but I’m having a hard time slogging through the minutia to get to it. Of course, he would probably say the minutia is the point and that concentrating on it is the way to live well, but that doesn’t make reading the endless details of his particular case any less mind-numbing. I’ll probably keep going because it’s freaking Gandhi, but I think I would have been better off reading a biography of him by someone else.
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Original publication date


Local notes

inscriptions: donated by Barrie Pittock; A B. Pittock 1958 Phone BX 7055

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