French Writings on India and South Asia (5)
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    Gandhi: An Anti-Biography of a Great Soul by: Michaël de Saint-Chéron

    This book is not just another biography of Gandhi. It is valuable because it offers us a French view—and Jewish too perhaps—of a man and times so familiar to us and yet which acquires another dimension as it is represented through another culture. There are eloquent accounts in this book of philosophers like Ramakrishna and Vivekananda who influenced Gandhi’s thought and life. Rather than political events, Michaël de Saint-Chéron holds up the force and courage of a man who became a prophet in a blood-thirsty century.
    Interestingly, the author points out that it is only India and the Middle East which has given the world the two mother religions of Hinduism and Judaism. Neither China nor Europe, two major cultures, have produced a world religion. The book is further enriched by a discussion on Hindu mysticism and the concept of ‘love’ in Judaism.
    The author also looks at how Gandhi has played a major role in shaping French intellectuals such as Andre Malraux. At the end however, a central dilemma, and a painful one in this work, concerns Gandhi’s silence on the Holocaust. This book will be of interest to scholars working on Gandhian studies, Indian philosophy and Judaism, and to readers of politics, ethics and history.

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    Opium Poppy by: Hubert Haddad

    ‘Again and again they ask his name. The first time, some people sitting down had recited all the names beginning with the letter, A. For no reason at all, they had stopped at Alam.’

    Alam is an Afghan child-soldier, child-refugee. Life is harsh, fragile and fleeting for him. Spanning two continents, with opium fields and deserted Parisian ghettos as backdrops, Opium Poppy lays bare the devastated lives of war- torn children. Hubert Haddad  holds up the broken lives of these children in prose that the reader will find difficult to forget.

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    Scholars and Prophets: Sociology of India from France 19th – 20th centuries by: Roland Lardinois

    This is the first book in the Series. Scholars and Prophets deals with the historical genesis of the long and rich  scholarship on India in France since the beginning of 19th century, with particular reference to the work of Louis Dumont It considers the works of  scholars and the essayists, poets, or esotericists who published on India and shows that Dumont has been influenced by both groups. This understanding illuminates the main criticism that is still addressed to Homo Hierarchicus, which is that in this book Dumont mistook the internal, Brahminical view point on the caste system for a sociological  view.

    In the course of  explaining the French intellectual tradition   the author relates many fascinating interactions and little known anecdotes of  famous men and women which capture the intellectually vibrant  climate of the time.

    In the last chapter, the book contrasts Dumont’s work with issues raised by McKim Marriott’s project? and the Subaltern Studies from India. It defends that the core issue dealt with by all scholars is the epistemic status given to scientific knowledge of Indian society.

    A very interesting feature of this book is the manner in which Roland Lardinois provides well written profiles of leading intellectuals. Both scholars and students of the social sciences will find this book very useful.

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    The Experience of Discrimination in France: Why Me? by:

    Racial discrimination hurts more than discrimination on the basis of class. This is because one can move up the class ladder but one cannot change one’s physical features or skin colour. This remarkable book, The Experience of Discrimination in France: Why Me? brings out graphically that in the developed world like France for instance, the discriminated do not starve or get locked up but they nevertheless suffer pain and discrimination both latent and manifest. The authors, François Dubet, Olivier Cousin, Eric Macé and Sandrine Rui flesh out each of these, which makes the everyday life of the discriminated, come alive at every turn.

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    Tocqueville in India by: Jean Alphonse Bernard

    India has always been a land of contrasts and marvels. Today it contrives to be a functioning democracy in the midst of a society that remains inherently hierarchical. In order to grasp this paradox in all its dimensions, Jean Alphonse Bernard resolved to revisit the realities of India now in the company of Alexis de Tocqueville ( 1805-59). Tocqueville in India explores the enduring dialogue between the State and Society. Following neither Fukuyama nor Huntingdon, this book should attract the attention of those concerned by Indian issues as well as every reader interested in political philosophy or world affairs.