Friday, April 22, 2005


by Rudyard Kipling

Kim, orphaned son of an Irish sergeant in the Indian Army, is brought up as an Indian street urchin. Fluent in Hindi and Pushtu, he is quick-witted and street-wise. When he becomes attached to a Tibetan lama searching for the River of Buddha’s Arrow, his life becomes intertwined with the Great Game --- England’s espionage network that safeguards British India.

This is a terrific novel: witty, suspenseful, rich in descriptions of forgotten or disappearing people and customs, and above all as complex and layered as India herself. There is a smack of the white man’s superior airs in the novel --- it is Kim’s “white blood” that makes him immune to the suggestions of India’s magic and his English education that allows him to resist hypnotism --- but there is nothing, to my eyes, denigrating in the novel. Kipling loves India, and Kim is India. Able to mimic a Sahib, a Hindi, a Muslim, a beggar, a chela or what have you, he represents all of India: its “good, gentle” people who revere the wise and the virtuous. The ending of the book is perfect: there’s closure, but it leaves all of India, from its dusty plains to the bitter cold of the Hills (Himalayas), open to Kim’s skills and knowledge. A truly great book, much more than an adventure story, road trip, or coming of age story. It is all these and more. It is one of the world's greatest novels.

five stars