Last autumn I used to check the web fairly regularly for reviews of my second book. New ones were appearing all the time, and I wanted to know what people thought. I just checked again yesterday for the first time in months, and I found this – a real humdinger of a put down.
I’m not getting into a fight about it; people can say what they like. And Mr. Noorani is a writer that I respect – I have read his work and have even bought it. But I am going to put down a few thoughts here, for myself, as a sort of memo.
First, I admit that I have not read everything on the subject of Jinnah and Gandhi, and I concede that, in amongst some generalised and irrelevant sideswipes, Mr. Nooorani makes some good detailed points. I take them with all humility as part of my education. But in my defence, I don’t think anything he says fundamentally undermines the overall thrust of the book. I intended to write an account of the differences between Jinnah and Gandhi, and to outline how their intellectual viewpoints related to their political interactions. I was not trying to belittle or romanticise either of them, and this is where I have come unstuck with reviewers most often. Another accused me of having ‘a sneaking admiration’ for Jinnah. Partly true. I do admire him, but not sneakily. And I admire Gandhi too.
I was not trying to see the worst in these great men, but to summarize them. Mr. Nooorani has taken an opposite lesson from the book. He thinks I have idolised Gandhi; well, no. But what is clearer is that Mr. Noorani is extremely angry that I have not slaughtered the Mahatma, and showed him up for the charlatan/incompetent/madman/twister etc. that he thinks he is. I retained a balance in the book, but I don’t think Mr Noorani appreciated it.
As ever with this sort of disagreement, all I can say is that Mr. Noorani should write his own book on this subject, and give the misled public a proper look at his opinions. I have reviewed a few books myself, and if I were ever asked to review one of his, I fully intend to be fairer to him than I think he has been to me.