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Who was Nehru?

A new biography of Nehru by Stanley Wolpert has attracted scorn in New Delhi. Katherine Frank, who is herself writing a biography of Indira Gandhi, asks what we can learn from Wolpert's failures. If post-modern biography has liberated itself from portraying a "true self," does this mean that anything goes?

By Katherine Frank   May 1997

So far the 50th anniversary of Indian independence appears to have stimulated more excitement outside the country. The cultural imports have come flooding in: a special India number of Granta, new books by expatriate Indians such as Gita Mehta and Rohinton Mistry, popular histories of partition and biographies of prominent figures in the freedom movement, including India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. I am currently writing a life of Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi, and I arrived in Delhi in late January along with the first copies of Stanley Wolpert’s Nehru: A Tryst With Destiny-the import which has without doubt attracted…

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