Jawaharlal Nehru Critical Context - Essay

Emil Lengyel

Critical Context

Lengyel’s work fills an important niche for young people trying to understand the forces and personalities that helped to shape the world they have inherited. Lengyel was well qualified to produce the portrait of one of the architects of a Third World power, having written widely on international political and economic topics. Several of his works address a young adult audience, including one on an unlikely topic for a children’s book: the oil industry in the Middle East. Lengyel had a firm grasp of the forces affecting international events, particularly in Western Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and India. This background helped him to strike the right balance of authority and simplicity in a biography of Nehru.

The book was written only four years after Nehru’s death. Sarvepalli Gopal’s definitive, multivolume biography of Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography (19761984), has the advantage of greater distance from the subject, but his presentation of the facts of Nehru’s life loses the sense of Nehru’s complex humanity and immense popularity. Later biographies may take a more skeptical tone or critical view of Nehru’s political actions, but they were written within a very different political climate and do not necessarily add to the portrait of Nehru as an individual. Simplicity without naïveté characterizes this biography, whose value as a personal portrait still stands.