Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fortnightly Book, September 29

Having read Tim Powers's Declare naturally suggests the next fortnightly book, since a major character is the historical figure Kim Philby, British intelligence agent and notorious traitor. 'Kim', however, was not his real name, but a nickname; the nickname comes from Rudyard Kipling's Kim, which will be the next one.

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), of course, was born in India and educated in England; he became a journalist and a roving correspondent, which brought him to America. After his marriage he intended to settled down in Vermont, where the Jungle Books in fact were written, but a major controversy with his American in-laws made it seem wiser to return to England. He spent some time covering the Boer War in South Africa, and eventually won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. He was the first person writing in English to receive it. The prize citation said,
In consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author.

There's good reason to think that he was given the prize as a representative of English literature in general, and as a quintessentially English writer, there was perhaps no better representative.

Kim was published in 1901, and is often considered Kipling's greatest novel. I can pinpoint under what circumstances I first heard of it, because Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Scouting movement, liked Kipling's works, and filled Scouting with Kiplingesque imagery and activities, one of which was Kim's Game, which was still being played when I was a Cub Scout. Despite having known about the book for so long and liking Kipling, I've never actually sat down to read it, so this will be my first time.

I am reading it in a 1962 Heritage Press (New York) edition; you can read the Sandglass for it online. It uses a Janson typeface and is illustrated by Robin Jacques.

Now on to The Great Game!


  1. branemrys5:31 PM

    Yes, both the 'power of observation' and 'virility of ideas' parts of the Nobel citation are spot on: he has a knack for forcefulness and description that makes you feel like he must be building on actual experience, even when he might well be making it up whole cloth.

  2. MrsDarwin8:05 PM

    We just watched Disney's version of The Jungle Book here, which had me grinding my teeth, so as a corrective we had to read the Mowgli portions of Kipling's original. I haven't read Kim in several years; maybe it's time to start that as our next readaloud project. Kipling is such a powerful stylist that I think just hearing his sentence structure will be beneficial even if the small ones don't follow all of the story. At least that's been my working theory for reading aloud Dickens, Alcott, and Shakespeare.


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