Chris and Yuri's Reviews > Kim

Kim by Rudyard Kipling
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
1005957
's review
Jul 30, 2008

really liked it
Recommended to Chris and Yuri by: Edward Said
Read in September, 2008

"This is a great and terrible world. I never knew there were so many men alive in it."

This is one of those books at the center of the academic street fight known as postcolonial studies. On one hand, Rudyard Kipling was a great (and Nobel Prize-winning) writer; on the other hand, he was an unabashed cheerleader of British and American imperialism. I wanted to read Kim, in fact, because Edward Said had so much to say about it (both good and bad) in Culture and Imperialism.

Politics aside, though, Kim is a picaresque travelogue, a spy thriller, a spiritual quest, a search for father figures, and a coming of age story wrapped into one. That Kipling achieves such a multi-layered, multi-faceted and entertaining story in a little more than 200 pages is a testament to his skills as a writer. But there were more than a few times that I had to hold my nose while reading the book, because of Kipling's detestable opinions towards the "natives" and his high and mighty view of the white men who sought to rule and even define them.
7 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Kim.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Yawar (last edited Jan 25, 2009 08:41PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Yawar I never knew about this great debate raging around Kim--it just comes as a shock to me. I'll have to read up about it I guess. Still, it's a terrible thing to judge an amazing work such as this against modern standards of morality--or rather political correctness. I'm glad you read it and enjoyed it. I would take that experience away from the reading, rather than frowning on Kipling's socio-cultural attitudes. It's a tall order to expect a man to have moral values more than a hundred years ahead of his time!


Frightful_elk I actually found him very humanistic and enlightened for his age, this book especially is full of warnings about inequality or feeling racially superior, and Kim is an Indian with a white skin. I think his tone is generally very respectful and vindictive against those who would underestimate or dismiss India. That saying there is so much racism it's hard for a modern reader not to gag a little, but there are no value judgements only it seems to me racial typecasting.


David Friedman "But there were more than a few times that I had to hold my nose while reading the book, because of Kipling's detestable opinions towards the "natives" and his high and mighty view of the white men who sought to rule and even define them."

Evidence that you let your prejudices blind you to the book you were reading. Kipling makes it clear that many of the English were unable to understand the society they were ruling and portrays many of the non-English favorably--the Lama, for one, is a convincing portrait of a saint. Consider the grandmother's comment contrasting the English born in India, who understand the place, with the English from England, who don't.

Kim, the protagonist, is both Indian and English (actually Irish), Irish by descent and Indian by upbringing, and the Indian half of him is at least as important, arguably more important, as the other.

Read "Jobson's Amen," "The Ballad of East and West," "Buddha at Kamakura," all poems.


back to top