A new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning former editor of The New York Times Joseph Lelyveld has quoted correspondence to suggest that Mahatma Gandhi was in love with Hermann Kallenbach, a male bodybuilder and German-Jewish architect, to whom he wrote “about ‘how completely you have taken possession of my body…this is slavery with a vengeance’.”

The book, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi And His Struggle With India, according to a report in the London-based The Telegraph, quotes extensively from Gandhi’s letters to Kallenbach.

And claims that “Gandhi nicknamed himself ‘Upper House’ and Kallenbach ‘Lower House’, and… “made Lower House promise not to ‘look lustfully upon any woman’. The two then pledged ‘more love, and yet more love… such love as they hope the world has not yet seen’.”

When contacted in New York by The Indian Express, Lelyveld said that the correspondence between Gandhi and Kallenbach is “amply documented” in the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi published by the Navajivan Trust (a publishing house founded by Mahatma Gandhi).

“Of course, there are only letters from Gandhi to Kallenbach and none from Kallenbach to him in Volume 4 or 5 of the Collected Works,” he said.

Lelyveld, 74, said he was aware that he had stumbled upon “sensitive material” when he first read the letters. “I knew this was delicate material and I approached it with a great deal of respect. I was very careful about this subject and this is the first book to deal extensively with the Kallenbach correspondence and it speculates very carefully upon the letters.”

According to The Telegraph, the book claims Gandhi had racist views on South African blacks. “We were marched off to a prison intended for Kaffirs,” Lelyveld quotes Gandhi as saying, according to the paper. “We could understand not being classed with whites, but to be placed on the same level as the Natives seemed too much to put up with. Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilized.”

Lelyveld said that he first became deeply involved with Gandhi as a subject in the 1960s when he was the India correspondent for The New York Times. “I was doing a long magazine piece about Gandhi for the centenary of his birth and at the time I explored where Gandhi stands in India and I spoke to a lot of Gandhians. Since then the idea of doing a book about Gandhi stayed with me. I have a great deal of respect for him.”

Lelyveld said the reason Western media reports are highlighting the “bisexual and racist” aspect is “because of the atmosphere we live in where anything is plucked off and reported everywhere as news. The news aggregators are full of it this morning. There is no real reporting, people have not even read the book.”