Book Review: The Story of my Experiments with Truth, by Gandhi

Some individuals tower over the rest of us by nature of their ability to influence the world. While most of us merely suffer the ebb and flow of history, others appear to possess the unnatural mythical ability to command the sea. One of these individuals was Mohandas K. Gandhi.

Unlike most others who fall into this category of world mover, Gandhi was not a conqueror. He was not a politician, he was not a general, he was not a scientist, and he never sought fame for its own sake. Despite that, he managed to push the world towards his ideals through simply engaging in activities he considered right and true. He became a body of wisdom that carried such weight, humanity could not help but to gravitate around him.

Herein is a review of Gandhi’s Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Despite the label of Autobiography, the book is not a full account of Gandhi’s life. The book was originally published in the form of weekly publications from 1925-1929 following his release from prison. It describes his early childhood in India, his years studying abroad in London, his most troubling encounters with racism as a barrister in South Africa, and it concludes with his first steps back in India in 1921 until his arrest and imprisonment.

Originally written in Gujarati, the book does not describe an exciting adventure filled with danger and romance, and frankly it can be dull in some isolated passages. But these stories are deeply insightful, and sometimes can truly be filled with absolute danger and violence, where whole communities square off against profoundly troubling injustice! Other passages however describe his dietary contemplations in details sometimes exasperating to the author of this review. Gandhi’s purpose in writing this chronicle was to explain to his Indian readers how he came by the ideas that formed his mind and character. In a world as divided as was India by colonial oppression, caste exclusivity, and religious intolerance, he thought it necessary to explain his beliefs on inclusivity, respect, and on the importance of thoroughly examining one’s own beliefs for lies and half-truths.

Gandhi would go on to become the leader of the Indian Independence Movement against British rule of India. Though he would be tragically assassinated following the success of this just cause, his role in shaping the modern world and the current lives of more than a billion Indians and Pakistanis is undeniable. Still today, seven decades since his death, his name carries more weight than that of any current politician, dictator, or celebrity.

It is good that we should know how the best of us came by their ideas. In reading Gandhi, we cannot help but find ourselves wanting in comparison to him. He inevitably provides us with a standard of goodness to which we cannot help but aspire. This being said, he was not perfect, his ideas sometimes seem outdated, but nonetheless, we are fortunate to have his words.

It is relevant to note that Gandhi begins the book by stating that he had to be convinced to write the autobiography since he deemed it a silly idea. Gandhi did not understand why he should put down his ideas on paper for posterity since he was certain that some of them would change in the future as he further examined their validity. In the increasingly ideological world we live in today, a few lessons from Gandhi should be deemed essential to any who claim to think.

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Book review: The Winter King, by Bernard Cornwell

Some stories have been told to us so many times that they possess an intrinsic hold upon us. These stories are woven into the fabric of our culture; the characters exist in our minds as though they were acquaintances; and the morals and lessons of the tales inform and dictate our very nature.

One of these deeply rooted stories is that of King Arthur and of his round table. This story has held a place in our culture and collective imagination since its first telling in the 9th century. Over the years it has taken many shapes and colours; Arthur has been seen as a folkloric superman who fought off hundreds of foes singlehandedly; Disney cast Arthur as a young and timid boy; Hollywood has seen him as both a Roman Officer and as a back-alley tramp in two different recent adaptations.

Yet none of these versions manage to deliver a telling of his tale that live up to the importance of the icon. All fail with the exception of Bernard Cornwell’s The Warlord Chronicles. The first installment in this trilogy is entitled The Winter King. This chronicle tells the tale of a brutal, cold, and miserable Britain, torn apart in the centuries following Rome’s abandonment of the Isles. Petty struggles for domination between neighbours have kept the Britons from coalescing and convalescing, and the lives of the people are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”, as Hobbes might have put it.
The book begins as the light of the Britons, Uther, dies. Uther was a King who managed to bring order in his lifetime, and with his death, disorder and chaos between the Britons emerges anew. This time however, to add fuel to the fire, the Britons face an existential crisis. Saxon hoards from across the English Chanel have begun their invasion of Britain, and the Britons must set aside their differences and come together to fight off their foes.

The story is told from the eyes of Derfel Cadarn, who is an orphan in the care of the Sorcerer Merlin at the start of the novel. As he comes to manhood in the unequaled battle sequences of Cornwell, he tells a story full of all one might hope from such a tale as Arthur’s. It is a story filled with wonder, bravery, cowardice, betrayal, love, violence, tenderness, but most of all; it is a story filled with hope.

Few authors take the care that Cornwell does when presenting a story cast in a historical era. His Warlord Chronicle tells a story that is impossible to set aside or put down. Nothing but the next page can satisfy the curiosity and thrill he instills with each and every word. While you are cold and gloomy this winter, consider picking up Bernard Cornwell’s The Winter King. It will bring a purpose to your day, and if nothing else, it can make you thankful that you are not born in the Dark Ages. But if you had, you would want to be at Arthur’s side.

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