Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Light that Failed (published in 1890) - Written by Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling, a Nobel laureate was born in India to a vivacious Alice Kipling and sculptor Painter, John Kipling. His works range from poems, to children's books. Rudyard was a English language writer whose prose is peppered with colloquial usage and languages mainly from India which opens a window to the prevailing culture and customs of the time. His children's stories are the most endured classics of the time and his short stories are the most sought after. Many of his works are deemed to be controversial as the time progressed. Rudyard Kipling was the product of an imperial India where imperialism under Queen Victoria was at its heights. His poems like White Mans burden are often sited as a clarion call for the imperialist and has been criticized by subsequent humanists. But as an youngest Nobel Prize recipient for English Language, the place for Kipling in human history cannot be discounted and his prose and poems enthuse millions even today.
This novel was written when Rudyard returned to London after a successful stint in India with the Civil and Military Gazette. It is about a idealistic journalist and painter who looses his eyesight. The female protagonist Maisie is modeled on Florence Gerrard, his sister's fellow boarder for whom Kipling nursed a secret feeling.

Dick Heldar is a painter who is abused by his stepmother and goes wandering in the world taking all good and bad things in his stride. He has nursed a secret feeling for his childhood friend Maisie who is impenetrable as he is and maybe less talented. But she gives her whole and soul for her work. Dick meets Torpenshaw who is a special correspondent with a news syndicate. He is employed to cover the Sudan expedition for a pittance. He leaves anyway and survives the assignment with serious eye injuries.
Dick and Torpenshaw return to London and eke out a living by selling portraits. Dick soon realizes that his eye sight is soon fading and wants to draw an ultimate masterpiece. So he starts on “Melancholia” which is "the likeness of of a woman who had known all the sorrow in the world and was laughing at it”. He is also frustrated by his pursuit of Maisie who does not return his love.
Soon he starts his painting with Bessie, a waif whom Torpenshaw has befriended. But he drives Bessie to hysteria with his harsh ways to get the expressions right. Dick manages to finish his masterpiece in-spite of his bad eyes. He invites Maisie to view his masterpiece, but Bessie out of revenge blots out the painting. Maisie tries to keep the ruining a secret, but Bessie informs him anyway. A distraught Dick travels back to Sudan and insists on covering the war. Torpenshaw mounts him on a horse out of pity and he rides out only to be shot.
A melancholy novel which is very unlike Rudyard Kipling's upbeat style. But it shows his real life experiences in his school and foster parents in London. But Dick Heldar's motto in life to take triumph and disaster with equanimity reflects Kipling's philosophy too.

The Light that Failed (published in 1890) - Written by Rudyard

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