Gandhi’s Printing Press: Experiments in Slow Reading

Isabel Hofmeyr, Author
Isabel Hofmeyr. Harvard Univ., $24.95 (232p) ISBN 978-0-674-07279-4
Hardcover - 237 pages - 978-0-674-07474-3
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Hofmeyr, a professor of African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, examines Gandhi’s work with words before he became a Mahatma. While he was a young attorney in South Africa at the outset of the 20th century, Gandhi was also “a sometime proprietor” of the press that printed the influential Indian Opinion newspaper, whose production formed, for the burgeoning activist, a crash course in the synthesizing of public opinion, news, and progressive thought. Located on an ashram outside the port city of Durban, the press allowed Gandhi and his cohorts to explore “new kinds of ethical selves,” bringing together as it did “different castes, religions, languages, races, and genders.” In Hofmeyr’s portrait, Gandhi emerges as a surprisingly keen publicist and media strategist, willing to buck the system (e.g., copyright laws) in the service of social change. She also offers a fascinating take on Gandhi’s mode of “contemplative reading,” one characterized by the merging of the text with a receptive mind via “pausing and perseverance,” all with an aim of cumulative progress. Indeed, Gandhi read as he led. This thoughtful account is a compelling preview of the colonial subcontinent’s development, as well as Gandhi’s eventual role as peaceful emancipator of his own country. 5 halftones, 4 maps. (Mar.)
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