Nehru : A Tryst with Destiny

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Jawaharlal Nehru was India's royal figure, its matinee idol, its most gifted prime minister. He combined a unique array of talents: compelling oratory, a brilliant mind, good looks, a keen political sense, but he also suffered from brooding isolation. He left an indelible mark on both the country he led to independence, and the world in which he lived. Yet even though Nehru wrote more about himself than did any other modern Indian, "Panditji's" true face has always remained veiled.Following Nehru from childhood, through his Harrow and Cambridge education, to his years as nationalist leader and Prime Minister of India, Stanley Wolpert's compelling, authoritative biography strips Nehru of his many cloaks and covers, removing the public masks he fashioned for himself throughout his mature life. With a subtle analysis of the various influences on Nehru's intellectual and political life--including the early homosexual influences, his conflict with his father, his close relationship with Mahatma Gandhi, his English education, and the years of periodic and sometimes prolonged imprisonment--Wolpert lays open to the reader the most nuanced, insightful rendering of Nehru's life yet written. Wolpert describes Nehru's brief career as a barrister, and his devotion to India's struggle for freedom, following in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi to the dust and poverty of India's villages. The book traces Jawaharlal's swift rise to the presidency of India's National Congress, revealing how his radical ideas and fearless leadership of Congress's left wing soon won him the martyrdom of long years behind British bars for conducting civil disobedience campaigns. After his release in 1945, Nehru met Lord Mountbatten, with whom he was destined to negotiate the independence and partition of British India into the nation states of India and Pakistan in 1947. Nehru then went on to become India's immensely popular Prime Minister for almost two decades. Wolpert brings Nehru's complex personality to life against a vividly portrayed picture of India's fascinating history throughout its most turbulent century. He shows how India's own destiny was intimately wrapped up in the destiny of Nehru, a charismatic leader who stands among the twentieth century's foremost more

Product details

  • Hardback | 558 pages
  • 154.94 x 236.22 x 45.72mm | 975.22g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • 20 halftones, bibliography
  • 0195100735
  • 9780195100730

About Stanley Wolpert

About the Author: Stanley Wolpert, Distinguished Professor of Indian History at the University of California, Los Angeles, first met Nehru in 1957-1958 when he lived in India for a year as a Ford Foundation Fellow working on his Ph.D. dissertation, published as the comparative biography, Tilak and Gokhale. Wolpert's more recent biographies include Jinnah of Pakistan and Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan. His A New History of India will appear this year in its fifth more

Review Text

The story of one of the giants of 20th-century history, here given an added psychoanalytic twist. Jawaharlal Nehru (1890-1964) belongs, with Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, and Mao, on a list of the primary shapers of mid-20th-century history. The outlines of his heroic public life, as one of the leaders of India's long battle for independence and as the new nation's highly visible prime minister, are well known. Fascinated with the riddles of his inner life, Wolpert (History/UCLA) adds to our knowledge of Nehru's personality. His judicious psychoanalytic commentary on Nehru's relationship with his father, Motilal Nehru, and with Mahatma Gandhi portrays an ongoing triangle of political intrigue, emotional competition, and mutual frustration. Wolpert deploys psychological theories with a light touch and sustains his points with lengthy quotations from Nehru's own writings. But his approach seems to fail him when dealing with Nehru's complex relationships with women. The leader's wife and mother remain shadowy, unhappy figures, obviously important but apparently without a point of view. Wolpert clearly delineates a woman's outlook only when he focuses on Nehru's daughter Indira, the future prime minister. He stresses the formative influences of Nehru's education at Harrow (a prestigious English private school) and Cambridge. Nehru brought home from England a sense of the inevitable triumph of some vague form of state socialism and a secularist dismissal of the importance of religion in modern history. His secularism and faith in government planning served him well in his roles as agitator and nation builder. But Nehru's failure to deal with religious rivalries contributed to the violent creation of Pakistan, and his stubborn belief in central government planning now seems simplistic. Striking a wise balance between sophistication and deference to the reader's need for explanations, Wolpert illuminates the aspirations and fears behind Nehru's compulsive drive toward power in India and influence in the wider world. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Review quote

"Stanley Wolpert's Nehru: A Tryst with Destiny is a magisterial work about one of the twentieth century's major historical figures. It is written with great style and it embodies many years of painstaking scholarship. It is a most welcome addition to the modern history of India by one of the leading scholars of modern South Asia. Stanley Wolpert has done justice to Nehru and his legacy."--Vartan Gregorian, Professor of History and President, Brown University"There have been biographies of Jawaharlal Nehru before. There will be more to come. This one will stand as the best, past and, I cannot doubt, future as well. Everyone interested in the larger history of the century just passed must turn to it. These are strong words, strongly meant."--John Kenneth Gailbraith, Harvard University"Stanley Wolpert, America's leading south Asian expert, has given us a compelling, brilliant portrait of Nehru that will be applauded not only by experts on India but an audience eager to understand the recent history of that extraordinary country. Wolpert's Nehru is biography at its best; an engaging portrait of a towering modern figure who affected all our lives. This book will become the starting point for all future work on Nehru."--Robert Dallek, UCLAshow more

Rating details

42 ratings
3.92 out of 5 stars
5 36% (15)
4 33% (14)
3 24% (10)
2 2% (1)
1 5% (2)
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