Pulitzer Prize winning author Joseph Lelyveld’s new book “Great Soul” a biography about Mahatma Gandhi is causing quite a stir. The book about Gandhi’s struggle for social justice and the evolution of his social values, was banned in the western state Gujarat, India in March when reviewers talked about a specific part of the book where Lelyveld talks about Gandhi’s relationship with a German man named Hermann Kallenbach, including a letter to Kallenbach that read, “How completely you have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance.” The book in itself never specifically alleges that Ghandi was gay or bisexual but that’s not stopping some from over-reacting and showing the stigma and intolerance that India’s culture has with homosexuality and bisexuality even here in the United States.
In India, homosexuality was illegal until 2009 and still carries heavy social stigmas.
Early this month, an educational organization in Santa Clara, Calif., the Foundation for Excellence, canceled an appearance by Lelyveld,citing a desire to avoid controversy. The foundation provides scholarships for students in India. And The chairman of the Indian Americans of Lexington, Massachusettes has also cancelled a planned April 29 visit by Lelyveld. Puran Dang said his group wanted to avoid any controversy for the historical society and decided to cancel the event in a decision relayed Thursday to Lelyveld’s publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.
Dang said his group met recently amid the tumult caused by the reviews and made the decision to call off Lelyveld’s appearance. The email from the historical society to Knopf cited the Indian Americans of Lexington’s concerns about “the content of the Gandhi biography” in its decision to withdraw sponsorship. But Dang said it was all about avoiding any problems, though he said there had been no indication of any trouble at the Lexington event.
“We just took this innocent decision to make it smooth,” he said. “Nothing more.”
In response Lelyveld, a former executive editor of The New York Times sarcastically called the group’s position as “a very courageous stand. It’s not a universal reaction,” he said. “I just think it created a small tempest and those who want to stay away can stay away.
In other less Pulitzer Prize winning type words……. Fuck em!