Context: Finished this off in the midst of packing for five weeks living in a village in Papua New Guinea.
This took a lot of getting through. Thankfully I’d been to India and Pakistan and spent some time in rural settings and in the mountains and so could relate somewhat to the settings of the story. Nevertheless, I kept looking to see how many pages I had left to go. Never a good sign really.
He say, in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam-Zammah on her brick platform opposite the old Ajaib-Gher – the Wonder House, as the natives call the Lahore Museum.
He crossed his hands on his lap and smiled, as a man may who has won salvation for himself and his beloved.
<><><>The story follows Kim, an orphaned half-caste boy who is picked up by a wandering Buddhist lama in search of salvation. Thus, Kim sets out on a personal journey of self-discovery as the disciple of this lama. Initially, he tags along for the hell of it but eventually, it is his devotion to the lama that takes on the most meaning for him as he grows from boy to man.
At the same time, Kim becomes a pawn in the Great Game. This pastime is still pursued by the leaders of nations like mine who feel it their right and even their duty to play soldiers with states of the near east. I did appreciate the insight into the netherworld of espionage in Victorian India but it is loathsome nonetheless. Kim is cultivated by those who play the game and used for their ends, something that he is very adept at and plays for his own sake initially. Eventually though, his devotion to his lama outstrips that of his devotion to the Game.
I found the narrative style really difficult to follow. Kipling is a great story teller no doubt but I find his short story work much much easier to read. In a 300+ page novel, he’s hard going I find. I found that characters and snippets of conversation simply appeared and disappeared at will. I found this very difficult and it spoiled the story for me quite a bit.
For me, the highlights were the times when Kipling turned to descriptions of India. I love India passionately and revelled in these descriptions of streets, people and shops. I wish he had more of the Hardy about him to describe his surroundings more. However, despite these great vignettes, I didn’t really enjoy it.