The Seeker

Overview

It is 1925 and India’s struggle for independence is in disarray, impeded by factionalism among its leaders and rising incidents of unrest across the country. Meanwhile, having withdrawn himself from active politics, Mahatma Gandhi is in an ashram immersed in what he considers the most important undertaking of his life—the creation of a community that is wholly dedicated to the highest standards of self-discipline, tolerance, and austerity.

Into this world comes a young British ...

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Overview

It is 1925 and India’s struggle for independence is in disarray, impeded by factionalism among its leaders and rising incidents of unrest across the country. Meanwhile, having withdrawn himself from active politics, Mahatma Gandhi is in an ashram immersed in what he considers the most important undertaking of his life—the creation of a community that is wholly dedicated to the highest standards of self-discipline, tolerance, and austerity.

Into this world comes a young British woman named Madeline, the daughter of a British admiral. Madeline has set her heart on becoming Gandhi’s greatest disciple. Madeline’s wish to serve him soon becomes an all-consuming desire to be near him at all times. Because her adoration of the great teacher is in direct conflict with his exacting moral and spiritual codes, Gandhi struggles with wanting to distance himself from her, yet wanting not to let go of her love and friendship.

Using words preserved in their letters and diaries, and drawing on the reminiscences of others, the author has created a compelling fictional narrative based on the extraordinary friendship that lasted over two decades between these two people.

To learn more about the author, Sudhir Kakar, go to www.sudhirkakar.com. 

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Skillful manipulation of time enables Sudhir Kakar to reclaim a space between history and imagination. A beautifully written novel.”—The Telegraph

“This heroic master [Gandhi] became at the same time a political myth, a spiritual icon, and a real man, an astonishing mix of fragility and determination, greatness and oddness. It is this intimate Gandhi which sets the scene for this magnificent work by Sudhir Kakar, one of the principal figures in contemporary Indian thought and . . . a novelist of repute.”—Le Monde

“A brilliantly woven narrative, with facts as the warp and imagination as the weft. . . . Kakar’s is a marvelous effort to peel away the layers surrounding Gandhi.”—The Hindu

“Not only brilliantly researched but also grippingly narrated. With his third novel, he has established a unique niche for himself in the world of Indian English fiction.”—India Today

"Sudhir Kakar's novel The Seeker is a seamless tapestry of the real and the invented that succeeds on many levels at once. Upon the underpinnings of history he has erected a moving tale of the uncertain territory that lies between love and devotion."—Keith Heller, author of The Woman Who Knew Gandhi

Library Journal

Novelist and psychoanalyst Kakar (Ecstasy ) successfully employs letters, diaries, and autobiographical accounts to craft this semifictional account of Mohandas Gandhi's platonic relationship with Madeline Slade, a young British woman who leaves her privileged life as an admiral's daughter and becomes one of Gandhi's foremost disciples. In 1925, against the backdrop of India's struggle for independence, Madeline-or Mira, as Gandhi later renames her-joins the spiritual leader's ashram in Gujarat. Mira's Hindi teacher, Navin Prasad, narrates the "factional" story of love and friendship that develops between Gandhi and his disciple. Navin's account of Mira's emotional and spiritual motivations for surrendering to Gandhi are the novel's strongest elements. Where Navin's narrative-and hence, the novel-falls short, however, is in portraying Gandhi's side of the story. Did Kakar's imaginative resolve just fail, or was he being respectful of the Mahatma's image? Either way, Gandhi's intentions toward Mira are never clear, and Kakar's insertion of a tangential story about Mira's infatuation with Indian revolutionary Prithvi Swingh further detracts from this account of an obviously complex relationship. Recommended only for large fiction collections.-Faye A. Chadwell, Oregon State Univ. Lib., Corvallis

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Woven together from fact and fiction, the story of Madeleine Slade, who became Mirabehn, one of Gandhi's most devoted acolytes. Kakar's third novel (after Ecstasy, 2002) uses imagination to connect letters, diaries and reminiscences in establishing the intense relationship between Gandhi-who fought to liberate India from British colonial domination-and a privileged daughter of the English ruling class. Slade's decision to join Gandhi's ashram in 1925, when she was 33, was characteristic of a young woman driven by all-or-nothing attachments (a passion for Beethoven, an unrequited love). After a year's preparation-sleeping on the floor, learning Urdu, spinning wool-she left for India and quickly became a close member of Gandhi's inner circle. Their story is narrated by her Hindi teacher, Navin, who devotes less space to Gandhi's politics and more to the idiosyncrasies of his lifestyle: his obsession with health and cleanliness; his moods; his experimental diet. Mira's feelings for Gandhi are both reverential and possessive; she becomes frantic when separated from him. Their relationship follows a cyclical pattern: When her idolization becomes extreme, he withdraws or sends her away, then forgives her and writes letters expressing deep affection. Navin realizes he is not suited to Gandhi's philosophy of celibacy and leaves the ashram. Later, as the political turmoil intensifies, Mira becomes infatuated with Prithvi Singh, who, despite Gandhi's encouragement, fails to reciprocate her passion. The book ends in 1942, some years before independence, while Mira is last glimpsed in 1968 in an epilogue-now an old woman, retired to Austria, silent on the subject of Gandhi. Odd, elegant butincomplete portraits of a 20th-century icon and his needy disciple.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590305256
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/31/2007
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.42 (w) x 8.16 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

Sudhir Kakar is a distinguished psychoanalyst and the author of many works of nonfiction. He cotranslated, with Wendy Doniger, Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra. His critically acclaimed novels, The Ascetic of Desire and Ecstasy, have been translated into several languages around the world. He lives with his wife, who is also a writer, in Goa, India.

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