Inspired by Gandhi’s autobiography, this is one great ethical thinker reflecting on another. Orwell measures Gandhi in accessible terms based on biographical detail, then moves onto his larger theme: the incompatibility of humanist and religious attitudes.
In aphoristic prose, Orwell emphasises the difference between those tempted and untempted by ‘inhuman’ perfection. He explodes the cant of Leftists who appropriate Gandhi, or those who misinterpret his pacifism. Orwell’s political realism is acute, understanding the limits of Gandhi’s model faced with totalitarianism or lunacy, and looking to the future risks of war with the same clear-eyed courage he recognises in his subject.
Related recommendation: Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language’ (1946)
Themes: Suicide, How to Live
Genres: Biographical, Critical