Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Little Friend of all the World"

I discover the works of Rudyard Kipling at ManyBooks.net including Kim (a free download for Kindle, etc.), the author's last, and perhaps best, book. I didn't read it until I was an adult but when I finally did I found it thoroughly enjoyable.

A reader at the Guardian's book blog had this to say about Kim:
.... Published at the threshold of the 20th century, Kim is the story of the eponymous orphan boy – of Irish descent but Indian-born, "a poor white of the very poorest" and a street urchin in the great Mughal city of Lahore. He falls in with an itinerant Tibetan lama on a quest for a sacred river, and ends up conscripted into "the Great Game", the imperial cold war of espionage and derring-do fought on the fringes of the British Raj. ....

...[W]hat makes Kim such a glorious wellspring of comfort is its humanity. The hero is known in the alleyways of Lahore as "Little Friend of all the World", and the book revels in the joy of human company. ....

Kipling has, of course, been roundly condemned by many a post-colonial critic, his very name made a byword for objectionable empire nostalgia. It's certainly true that the India of Kim is an unchanging place, with British rule an incontestable part of the scene. But the warm soul of the book is in its people, not its politics. It brims with Indian noise and heat and colour – a great comfort in itself when the world outside your window is slate-grey and sodden. And yet these roaring bazaars and clamorous caravanserais are peopled not with some massed and inscrutable Other; they are brim-full of friends, men and women with voices and stories of their own.

The other great solace is in the writing itself. There is style without pretentiousness, and simplicity that is neither bleak nor chiselled. It is comfort food that is somehow rich and refined at the same time, and I can read it again and again. ....