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The Story of My Experiments with Truth  
Myexperimentswithtruth.jpg
Cover page of 1993 reprint by Beacon Press.
Author Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Original title સત્યના પ્રયોગો અથવા આત્મકથા
Translator Mahadev Desai
Country India
Language Gujarati
Subject(s) Autobiography
Publisher Navajivan Trust
Publication date 1927

The Story of My Experiments with Truth (Gujarātī "સત્યના પ્રયોગો અથવા આત્મકથા") is the autobiography of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, covering his life from early childhood through to 1920. It was initiated at the insistence of Swami Anand and other close co-workers of Gandhi, for him to explain the background of his public campaigns. In 1999, the book was designated as one of the "100 Most Important Spiritual Books of the 20th Century" by HarperCollins publishers.[1]

Contents

Etymology

For Gandhi, truth was the sovereign principle; inclusive of many other spiritual principles and schools of thought.

"[I]t is not my purpose to attempt a real autobiography. I simply want to tell the story of my numerous experiments with truth, and as my life consists of nothing but those experiments, it is true that the story will take the shape of an autobiography...", he adds in the introduction. And hence the title My Experiments with Truth. However, he further notes that "... [the experiments] will of course include experiments with non-violence, celibacy and other principles of conduct believed to be distinct from truth."

In this autobiography, Gandhi has recounted the period from his birth (1869) up to the year 1921. In the last chapter, he notes, "My life from this point onward has been so public that there is hardly anything about it that people do not know..."

Influences

Gandhi wrote in his autobiography that the three most important modern influences in his life were Leo Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God Is Within You, John Ruskin's Unto This Last and the poet Shrimad Rajchandra (Raychandbhai)[2].

First publication and later editions

After its initiation, "The Story of My Experiments with Truth" remained in the making for 4–5 years (including the time while Gandhi was imprisoned at Yeravda near Pune, Maharastra), and then it first appeared as a series in the weekly Gujarati magazine Navjivan during 1925-28 which was published from Ahmedabad, India.

In a book-form, it was first published (in Gujarati) by Navajivan Trust, Ahmedabad in two volumes (Vol I–602pp–1927; Vol II–608pp–1929) at a subsidized rate and has run though five editions/reprints since then - last in January 2001. After the first publication, it was revised and translated into English by Gandhi's close associate and aide-de-camp Mahadev Desai.

The English translation first appeared as a series in "Young India", another English language weekly of Navajivan Trust.

Translation

The only English translation of The Story of My Experiments with Truth was done by Gandhi's friend and assistant Mahadev Desai. By modern standards Desai's translation is flowery and liberal, turning passages such as "Everyone should fast and stop work" into "Let all the people of India, therefore, suspend their business on that day and observe the day as one of fasting and prayer." It also bowdlerises the original in places. (see The Believer 51, Feb. 2008 [1])

Mahadev Desai (left) reading out a letter to Gandhi from the viceroy at Birla House, Mumbai, April 7, 1939.

Mahadev Desai (1892—1942), a journalist, was born in 1892 in the Surat district of Gujarat state in India. He graduated from the Bombay University with B.A. (first class), majoring in Philosophy and Logic. This was followed by a Law degree, and in 1915 he qualified as a lawyer.

Owing to his love for literature and to support his education, Mahadev Desai elected to translate John Morley's book On Compromise into Gujarati language in a competition for best Gujarati translation sponsored by Forbes Gujarati Sabha (See: Alexander Kinloch Forbes). After winning the prize, he went to meet with Gandhi (who returned to India in 1915) in Ahmedabad to seek his advice. Some authorities, however, suggest that Desai met with Gandhi in relation with a letter that the former has sent expressing his views and criticism on Gandhi's proposed ashram in Ahmedabad. Anyhow, this was their first meeting, and in November 1917, Mahadev Desai decided to join Gandhi on a full-time basis – an intimate association that lasted for nearly 25 years until the early death of Desai in 1942.

In Verrier Elwin's words:

... [Mahadev Desai] was much more than [Gandhi's official secretary]. He was in fact Home and Foreign Secretary combined. He managed everything. He made all the arrangements. He was equally at home in the office, the guest-house and the kitchen. He looked after many guests and must have saved 10 years of Gandhi's life by diverting from him unwanted visitors....

Reviews

Some critics have suggested that Gandhi has assumed the basic knowledge of the events and socio-political situation of India during late 19th – early 20th century on the reader's part. It may be advisable to supplement the reading with other (recent) authors like Yogesh Chadha (Gandhi: A Life) who could help provide the background information and insight of that era.

Book Reviews

References

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Editions in print

  • India - ISBN 81-7229-008-X
  • United States - authorized edition with forward by Sissela Bok, Beacon Press 1993 reprint: ISBN 0-8070-5909-9
  • Dover Publications 1983 reprint of 1948 Public Affairs Press edition: ISBN 0-486-24593-4
  • Gandhiana.org: My Experiments with Truth (Paperback)

Online editions

External links


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