Monday, November 29, 2010

The American (published in 1877) - First published in serialized form, and then as a book, by Henry James

Henry James was one of the greatest literary figures of the 19th century and his works are considered mini masterpieces of the time. He was born in New York City in to a wealthy and intellectual family. Young James was tutored in the many learning centers of Europe and also studied at the Harvard Law School for some time. But he liked his literary pursuits to the study of law. James preferred living in Europe than in America and even renounced his American Citizenship for its refusal to enter in to World War I. He was a regular contributor to literary magazines and started his first novel “Watch and Ward” in his early twenties. His masterpieces like “Daisy Miller” and “Portrait of a Lady” quickly followed. His protagonist are complex individuals battling personal and provincial prejudices and many a time bring about the complexities of American and European lives. Henry James died at the age of 65 and his ashes are interred at Cambridge, Massachusetts.
This novel chronicles the travails of Christopher Newman, a gauche but rich American who travels through Europe. Newman is indeed the son of the new world, America, brash, hard working unlike the aristocrats in Europe who are very class conscious. Newman on his travel encounters many people, like Noemie Nioche, Tom Tristam and Lizzie Trisatam who give their perspective of Europe. He is introduced to beautiful Claire Clintre, a French noblewoman who has left her abusive husband. Newman falls in love with Claire and she also gives him his heart. But the Claire's mother,Madame de Bellegarde, and her older brother, Urbain de Bellegarde are against the match because of the working class origins of Newman. They never make it a secret that they are interested in his money.



Claire's younger brother Valentin de Bellegarde respects Newman for his ethics and becomes good friends with him. He also falls in love with Noemie and is challenged to a duel by another admirer. Valentin is mortally injured in the duel and in his dying moments reveals that his mother and brother had murdered his father. Meanwhile Newman tries his best to ingratiate with Claire's family and is constantly rebuffed.
When her mother and brother forbid her match with Newman, Claire takes the veil and joins a convent to become a nun. This is the last straw for Newman and he plans to take revenge against Madame de Bellegarde and her son, Urbain. He obtains written evidence of their complicity in the murder of Claire's father and plans to get them convicted. But Newman is torn in to two. One side he yearns for revenge and on the other side he sees the futility of such an action. But in the end he tears the evidence and still walks away with doubts about his actions.
The American epitomizes the new world of USA where men are honest and truthful compared to the deceit and discriminatory attitude of the Europeans. It is said that James wrote the Americans to counter the Alexander Dumas's novel L'√Čtrang√®re, which portrayed Americans as crude gold diggers. But I find the ending to be very confusing and not defined. It is a romantic novel with lot of philosophy about right and wrong and filial responsibility thrown in. In today's age, such pure virginal relationships may be non existent, but the Victorian consciousness of the Author cannot be contested. So I would still say the American is a good read.

The American (published in 1877) - First published in serialized form, and then as a book, by Henry James

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Roderick Hudson (first serialized in 1875) - Written and later revised by Henry James

Henry James was one of the greatest literary figures of the 19th century and his works are considered mini masterpieces of the time. He was born in New York City in to a wealthy and intellectual family. Young James was tutored in the many learning centers of Europe and also studied at the Harvard Law School for some time. But he liked his literary pursuits to the study of law. James preferred living in Europe than in America and even renounced his American Citizenship for its refusal to enter in to World War I. He was a regular contributor to literary magazines and started his first novel “Watch and Ward” in his early twenties. His masterpieces like “Daisy Miller” and “Portrait of a Lady” quickly followed. His protagonist are complex individuals battling personal and provincial prejudices and many a time bring about the complexities of American and European lives. Henry James died at the age of 65 and his ashes are interred at Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Roderick Hudson is a novel where Henry James found his niche in literature. He wrote about the complexities of human relationships and the proclivities of American and European culture. Rowland Mallet is a wealthy man and an art connoisseur who sees the sculpture of Roderick Hudson and realizes that he is a gifted artist. He offers to fund his travel through Italy so as to improve his artistic talents. Mallet meets Roderick's Mother and Cousin Mary Hudson with whom he falls completely in love. As he is about to confess his feelings Roderick reveals to him that Mary has accepted hid proposal for marriage. Mallet suppresses his feelings and moves to Italy.



In Italy Roderick flourishes as an original talent but his bad behavior and tendency to gamble makes him a despised man. Mallet meanwhile dates an upcoming artist Augusta Blanchard to try and forget Mary. Roderick on the other hand finds a scintillating beauty Christina who is a gold digger. Roderick is swept off his feet and manages to win her approval to sculpt her bust. Soon his interactions with Christina increases and his infatuation drives him to insanity. Mallet tries to intervene for Mary's sake and informs him that Christina is engaged to a rich Neapolitan Prince. He also informs Christina about Mary and in-spite of his mental duress brings in Mrs. Hudson and Mary to try and save Roderick.
But Roderick's flip flop continues as he fails to complete his assignments. Christina has him in her snares and toys with his emotions. She even berates Mary at a party and Mary treats her as a fake. Rowland advises Christina to stay away from Roderick as she has married the Prince. In the meantime debts have mounted for Roderick who is unable to undertake any work. His mother and Mary ask him move back home, but Mallet asks them to move to Switzerland so that he can be close to Mary. Roderick in the mean time says that he is giving up on Mary and a chance meeting with Christina fans his desire. He begs money from mallet to join Christina in Interlaken in-spite of her married status.
Roderick dies in a storm on the way to Interlaken and a grief-stricken Mary and his Mother return home. Mallet too follows them and hope for a better day. A very complex novel and a a superb narration which makes you feel the emotions of the protagonist in your midst. A must read for all classic lovers.

Roderick Hudson (first serialized in 1875) - Written and later revised by Henry James

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Watch and Ward (published in 1878) - Written by Henry James (later disowned by him)

Henry James was one of the greatest literary figures of the 19th century and his works are considered mini masterpieces of the time. He was born in New York City to a wealthy and intellectual family. Young James was tutored in the many learning centers of Europe and also studied at the Harvard Law School for some time. But he liked his literary pursuits to the study of law. James preferred living in Europe than in America and even renounced his American Citizenship for its refusal to enter in to World War I. He was a regular contributor to literary magazines and started his first novel “Watch and Ward” in his early twenties. His masterpieces like “Daisy Miller” and “Portrait of a Lady” quickly followed. His protagonist are complex individuals battling personal and provincial prejudices and many a time bring about the complexities of American and European lives. Henry James died at the age of 65 and his ashes are interred at Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Watch and Ward is one of Henry James's first literary works and his amateur workmanship comes to the open. He started on this novel while traveling through Venice and Paris. This novel first appeared in the Atlantic journal as a monthly piece and was published as a novel later. It is a pretty weird tale for today's times the protagonist adopting a girl to be his wife in future.
Roger Lawrence is a wealthy man of means who goes to propose to Miss Miller and finds that she is engaged to another. He tells her that he would never marry if he cannot possess her. As he walks in this wretched frame of mind a gentleman begs him for hundred dollars and a taken aback Richard offers him ten dollars. This infuriates the man and Richard slips off pocketing the note.



Later in the hotel he finds that the same man has committed suicide leaving behind a waif of twelve years. Thus he takes in the pretty girl Nora who is about twelve to his care and entrusts her to Mrs Keith for the motherly care. Mrs Keith assures him that Nora will return as a jewel whom he wouldn't even recognize. Nora begins her education and becomes an accomplished lady in music, painting and all the crafts. Upon her return, Nora is seen as the perfect lady with great beauty and gifts. Roger falls in love with her completely but does not tell her. Nora on her part does not have feelings except that of a friend or sister.
Nora is soon courted by two men, a George Fenton who is a good-looking rascal without a penny to his name. He is looking at innovative ways to make a quick buck and tries to ensnare Nora for the hold she has on Roger. He shrewdly interprets Rogers feeling and also his money. Hubert Lawrence is Roger's cousin and is a intellectual minister and Nora is attracted to his so called intelligence. After a lot of adventure's with the above men Nora comes to realize that Roger too loves her. The whole idea initially repulses her and she flies to New York city to Fenton. Fenton treats her as a means to serve his ends to extort money from Roger. Nora comes to know his devious ways and flees to Hubert. There she sees Hubert engaged to Amy who assails her presence. A much chastened Nora flees and finds Roger looking for her. She discovers her love for him and they get married.
I have found the premise pretty weird and the relationship bizarre. Even the sexed up dialogues sounds very funny for this day and age. Even James did not think highly of his first novel and had disowned it.

Watch and Ward (published in 1878) - Written by Henry James (later disowned by him)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Puck of Pooks Hill (published in 1906) - A fantasy book 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 humanist. But as one of the 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. Kipling died in 1936 in London and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
These are series of stories which Kipling has taken from historical accounts and is basically about the Kings and Queens of yesteryears in Europe. So you have Queen Elizabeth, King henry, Roman Generals, Fairies, pirates and vikings striding across the pages in a glorious procession before your very own eyes.



The story starts with two children Dan and Una who stage their version of “The Midsummer Nights Dream” thus pulling the naughty fairy Puck in to their midst. Puck magically transports them across ages where they see a Norman Knight, a Renaissance artisan, Saxons, Picts, Norsemen (Vikings), a Chinese slave-master, Kings, Queens and many others, each of whom imparts his respective piece of England's history. The fantasy stories starts with:

Weland's Sword: It tells the account of the Norseman conquest where Weland the great smith forges the sword through which he conquers a country and a princess.

The Young man of the Manor continues the saga of the Norman conquest and introduces Sir Richard Dalyngridge who takes part in the conquest and wins a manor.

The Knight of the Joyous venture depicts the voyage by the Danes along with Richard Dalyngridge and other captured prisoners.

Old Men of Pevensy tells the story of intrigue in the court of Henry I when he is in Pevensy.

Centurion of the Thirtieth is the story of Parsimus who is a Roman soldier who goes to battle with the general Magnus Maximus. It tells the conquest of Gaul by the general.

On the great Wall tells us about the Hadrian Wall which was built by the Romans and it defense against the invaders.

The Winged Hats continues with the Hadrian Wall and the defense of general Magnus Maximus.

'Hal o' the Draft' is the tale of deception, mutiny and beheading involving the explores Sebastian Cabote and Privateer Andrew Barton

Dymchurch Flit is a fairy tale where Puck disguises himself as Tom Shoesmith and tells the story of widow Whitgift who loaned her sons to help others.

“The treasure and the Law” is about a Jewish money lender Kadmiel whose shrewdness is instrumental in signing of the Magna Carta ushering in peoples law in England.

All these tales are in the realm of historical fantasies and educate the children about the law and evolution of the land (England) they live in. beautiful and delightful and a must read for all ages.

Puck of Pooks Hill (published in 1906) - A fantasy book by Rudyard Kipling

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Just So Stories (published in 1902) - A collection of children's stories 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 were deemed to be controversial over a period of time. 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.
Just so stories are a series of “how did it happen stories” designed for children. But adults also enjoy them a great deal because of the interplay of philosophical and religious ideologies. The various stories take their content heavily from Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic traditions and transcend the barriers of culture, color and continents. Another thing about Rudyard Kipling's stories is the language which is refreshing as new rain, it is polite and peppered with witticism and takes us to those days where chivalry and long poetry ruled roost.



The stories include:

How the Whale Got His Throat: Did you know that the whales mouth is criss-crossed by a raft to prevent it from feeding on large animals. This is done as a punishment for its greediness in eating all the animals at sea. So the poor whale can eat only shoals of small fish.

How the Camel Got His Hump: This story tells how the Camel was punished for it laziness with a hump which in-turn helps it to work uninterrupted for 3 days with out food or water.

How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin: The folds of the Rhinoceros is because of the cake crumbs and raisins between its hide put their by a magical Parsee, as a punishment for eating his cake.

How the Leopard Got His Spots: This story tells how the leopard and the Ethiopian painted themselves up all spotty and black to help themselves hunt animals in a shadowy, patchy, dark jungle.

The Elephant's Child: A great account of a curious elephant who got its nose pulled by a crocodile in to a trunk

The Sing-Song of Old Man Kangaroo: This tells us about the Kangaroo who is chased by a Dingo around the world for daring to ask big God Nqa to make him different. All the running made his leg strong and muscular and thus made him different.

The Beginning of the Armadillos: Whats an Armadillo?, Just a Hedgehog and Turtle transforming together to escape from an unfriendly Jaguar. Only Kipling has such imagination!!!!

How the First Letter was Written: According to this, the first letter was written by a little girl Taffy, to her mother to get her fathers spear. This delightful story is about the case of bad artistry all gone wrong causing a wonderful change.

How the Alphabet was Made: So Taffy, causes an unfortunate accident because of her bad drawing in the earlier story and therefore tries to invent alphabets to get her ideas across. So “A” is an inverted craw-fish trying to say AH!!!! delightful concept. Loved this story

The Crab that Played with the Sea: This story is about the crab who interferes with the “play” of the universe and is punished for it. It also tells how it got its pincers, Shell and sideways gait.

The Cat that Walked by Himself: This tale tells the independent nature of the cat who in-spite being domesticated “walks every where and comes anytime”.

The Butterfly that Stamped: This story tells the how the beautiful Queen Balkis helps emperor Suleiman bin Daoud to control his nine hundred and ninety nine wives.

These charming tales will be an splendid antidote for the boredom afflicting your house. Join the family, switch off the TV and read aloud this mystical tales of the world.

Just So Stories (published in 1902) - A collection of children's stories by Rudyard Kipling

Friday, November 19, 2010

Captains Courageous (published in 1897) - 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 humanist. But as one of the 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. Kipling died in 1936 in London and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
This is one of my favorite childhood books which hold a fascination even today. This coming of age story of a rich millionaire brat has been rehashed in countless movies and novels, but nothing comes near Kipling's rendition.



Harvey Cheyene is a rich kid whose father is interested in his millions and mother who has a weak will and nerves. Harvey is a spoilt brat with no concerns for fellow men and is fully immersed in his way of life as a party animal, a la Paris Hilton. At the beginning of the story, Harvey is on a cruise, on one of his father's innumerable ships. The ocean liner is crossing the grand banks cutting through the thick of fog and Harvey's more concern is about the noise from the squawking fishing vessels near by. His disconnect with his surroundings is evident from his statement "You can hear the fish-boats squawking all around us. Wouldn't it be great if we ran one down!".
So the self centered Harvey is tricked in to smoking a oily Cigar and as he clears air on the deck, a grand wave washes him overboard. The next thing he remembers is waking up on a tone of fish with a broad back man on a blue jersey who introduces himself as Manuelo. Harvey is rescued by a schooner “We're Here of Gloucester” captained by Disko Troop. Troop's son Dan keeps vigil while Harvey sleeps of his fatigue. True to his spoilt nature, Harvey demands to be taken back to New York and tells them “what a rich boy he is” and the rich haul they can have from his father. Troop refuses to believe his yarn and offers him a job on the schooner in lieu of his keep. Thus Harvey begins his life as a fisherman, gutting the fish with others.
Kipling very gamely describes the back breaking work of a fishing trawler at sea for months. He through Harvey's lessons tells how fish is caught, gutted and stored for sale. Harvey along with Dan, Manuel, Penn, Long Jack, Old Salters, Tom Platt and Disko troop pitches, cuts and salts the fish and the millionaire boy has to get on with life. Soon he gets the hang of it and takes pride in his new life. Deep friendship is formed with Dan during their watches aboard the schooner and Harvey from a spoilt pale white boy turns to a clear eyed, strong level headed creature who respects even the smallest of boats.
When Mom and Dad catch up with him, they are surprised by the transformation and Harvey has a heart to heart talk with his Dad. Harvey leaves with a promise of getting Dan a place as mate in his shipping company and a promise to live life with respect. Respect is what Harvey learns aboard the humble schooner and the reader sees that in his parting words “Great ships these of my father's? Oh yes," But back in Gloucester are the able little vessels. The We're Here, she's one. I owe a heap to her-to her and her crew."
And we owe Kipling our gratitude for a swell tale of a boy who turns out to be the best of men.

Captains Courageous (published in 1897) - Written by Rudyard Kipling

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stalky & Co (Published in 1899) - Written by Rudyard Kipling, a collection of short stories

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.
Stalky and Co is a collection of stories about adolescent boys who are in a boarding school in a quaint town of Westward Ho!. These stories are influenced by the real life boarding school experiences of Kipling and Stalky is inspired from his friend LC Dunsterville and Beetle being the bespectacled avatar of himself. The others include, M'Turk based on George Charles Beresford, Mr King based on William Carr Crofts and the school is based on the United Services College.



Stalky, the type of self-contained boy who smiles at you as he plots your destruction. McTurk, an Irish aristocrat for whom bad aestheticism is the worst crime. And, refreshingly, Beetle, a bespectacled poet. Their deadly combination wreaks havoc on any schoolmaster unwise enough to set himself in opposition to them. The stories trace their many pranks at school including playing with dead cats, brewing beer and smoking like a chimney. These books are typical Kipling works which involves a collection of interconnected stories with a verse of two peppered in between.
Kipling is taken up completely by Stalky whom he describes to be “in black tights and doublet, a black silk half-mask on his forehead, whistling lazily where he lay on top of the piano” compared to the nearsighted Beetle.
At the end of the stories all the mischief and the pranks enable them to be the person they are, patriotic and able to defend the empire far and wide. At the end of their youth they assemble at the castle of a friend who inherits the title to reminisce and drink to their amazing peers who serve in the army.
Kipling's stories may shock many today especially with the over dose of empire praising. It also borders on Antisemitism and racism with the natives almost relegated inferior. But one has to keep the time and philosophies of the time and judge his books. Stalky and Co may not be compared to other boarding school sagas like “Tom Brown School Days” but has a charm on its own.

Stalky & Co (Published in 1899) - Written by Rudyard Kipling, a collection of short stories

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Second Jungle Book (Published in 1895) - 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 humanist. But as one of the 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. Kipling died in 1936 in London and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
The Second Jungle Book is a sequel to the Jungle Book and features five stories of Mowgli and three unrelated stories. Kipling has set all these stories in India, but had written the script in Vermont. In the first Story “How Fear Came” all the animals have gathered around the watering hole where Sher Khan the Tiger brags about his ancient right to kill man. Hathi, the chief of elephants tells the story where in ancient times Tha, the king of beast had appointed the tiger as an adjudicator in his absence. That was the time of harmony where all animals were vegetarians. Tiger accidentally kills and runs away and is marked by creeping wines thus getting stripes for his act. Tha gives him the boon of one night when he is never afraid of the hairless beast, man.



The second story is “The Kings Ankus” where Kaa leads Mowgli to a underground lair which is guarded by a cobra. It is a lost city where jewels abound. Mowgli never realizes the worth of other treasures, but takes the bejeweled Ankus against the warnings of the Cobra. When Bagheera informs him that the Ankus is used to hurt elephants, Mowgli casts it away only to be found by a man. It leaves a trail of killings and Mowgli much, chastened takes it back. In Letting in the Jungle, Mowgli takes revenge from the villagers who imprison his adopted mother Messua with the help of Hathi the elephant.
In Red dog, Mowgli is warned by a waylaid wolf, Won-Tella about a marauding pack of Dhole or wild dogs. Mowgli urges his pack to stay and fight. With the help of Kaa he lays a trap for the Dhole and leads them to the terrible hives. The Dhole are decimated, but Akela, the wolf chief is mortally wounded. In his dying words, he urges Mowgli to seek his kind as he has paid his debt to his adopted wolf family.
The Spring Running is the last of the Mowgli stories. As a seventeen year old Mowgli feels the first awakening of attraction in him. He meets his mother Messua who now is a widow with a small son. On his visit he cannot keeps his eyes off a pretty girl. Bagheera tells him to listen to his instincts and ask him to return to his world. Mowgli leaves his pack to lead a human life.
The other stories involve "The miracle of Puran Bhagat", a politician turned holy man who saves the village from a landslide with the help of animals and “the Undertakers” which is a story of a crocodile, a stork and a jackal with their struggles against man. The last story is Quiqern, which is a nice break from the tropical jungle and takes place in an arctic jungle. Here the a young Inuit, Kotuko along with a girl companion follow a spirit called Quiqern. They need to find a seal and food supplies or their tribe is doomed. As Kotuko travels he finds that the spirit is really two live dogs leading them to the seal. Kotuko accomplishes his mission of getting food for his people.
The second Jungle book is more intense and more adventurous than the first one. It has more things to grab the attention of even the vicious Internet game fanatic. I am not ten anymore, but the tales and lores of Kipling's jungle gives me goose pimples even now. Just read it with your children and leave them in your debt forever. If not read it alone to be transported to a magical kingdom of the man cub and his friends. These tales never age, right?

The Second Jungle Book (Published in 1895) - Written by Rudyard Kipling

Monday, November 8, 2010

Kim (Published in 1901) - 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 cited as a clarion call for the imperialist and has been criticized by subsequent humanist. But as the youngest Nobel Prize recipient for English Literature, the place for Kipling in human history cannot be discounted and his prose and poems enthuse millions even today. Kipling died in 1936 in London and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Kim is one of the classics of the twentieth century and all of Kipling's angst is thrown in to the story of an orphan who reaches self awareness. Kim is Kimball O'Hara, son of a Irish soldier and a poor white mother whose is destined to grow up as a vagabond on the streets of Lahore. He is the poorest of the poor, a waif fending for himself and Kipling himself writes that he looks like any other Indian urchin. All the sense of whiteness in him is obscured by the indian-ness of the environment.



But Kim is street smart, savvy and courageous with an inquisitive and intelligent mind. He works for Mahbub Ali who really is a British spy in Lahore. Kim befriends a Tibetan Monk, Teshoo Lama who reaches Lahore looking for Buddhist Relics. He is looking for the River of Arrow supposed to have sprung from the arrow of Buddha and can cleanse all the sins. Kim is fascinated by the Lama and agrees to become his Chela or disciple. So the wanderings of Kim begin and they reach Benares and the foothills of the Himalaya's in search of the river. Kim is captured by a group of British Soldiers whose flag depicts a Red Bull on a green field. This fulfills the prophesy ringing in Kim's mind about “nine-hundred first-class devils, whose God was a Red Bull on a green field”. Anyway, initially thought as spies the chaplains of the regiment ascertain his identity from his papers and tell him that they knew his father. They take it upon themselves to make a white man of him. But Kim hates the sense of superiority and the nastiness present in the British soldiers. His deliverance arrives in the form of Colonel Creighton who befriends him and takes him under his wings for training as a spy. Soon Kim is above all the soldiers and is inducted in to the secret service.
He goes with the Lama, but as an undercover agent to the Himalaya's ostensibly to look for the river of arrow. Here he finds the Russian and other enemy spies plotting against the empire. Here Kim is forced to fight as the Russians try to harm the Lama. In the melee he obtains the secret papers and with the help of the natives manage to rescue themselves to the plains. He and the Lama are nursed to health by a native woman and Kim delivers the papers. Teshoo Lama is aghast about the violent streak innate in him and leaves to seek the ultimate path of renunciation. Kim also ponders his life and becomes of aware of his existence. In the end we find Kim as Kim, not needing any father figure, or mother to stand on his own. He just says “I am Kim” nothing less or more a person.
Kim is Rudyard Kipling's stellar works. His views on Buddhism, imperialism and nuances of native culture come through in this book. He very stoically supports the British way of life and supports her claim of Indian territory. But I feel we see a Kipling who understands native culture and abhors the white man who considers “nine tenth of the earth heathen”. His dislike of strict discipline and intense religious pontification comes through in Kim. A good read anyways.

Kim (Published in 1901) - Written by Rudyard Kipling

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

The Jungle book (published in 1894) - A collection of stories 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.
Jungle book is a collection of seven stories featuring anthropomorphic animals and humans in a very Indian setting. These stories may have morals and symbolism but the foremost idea is to entertain and thus equating them with the Aesop fables are futile. This book has gone in to the public domain and are a part of the Project Gutenberg for viewing.



For me the first mention of Jungle book brings to mind the cherished memory of Mowgli the man cub brought up by the wolves. Mowgli is found by a she-wolf who nurses the baby along with her cubs. He grows up with the pack along with friends like Bagheera, the panther and Baloo, the Bear and Kaa, the python. He has his wolf brothers and the leader of the pack Akela to fight for him. This story chronicles the life of Mowgli and his fight with his arch enemy, Sher Khan, the Tiger. Devious devices and petty jealousies drive Mowgli to the human settlement where he is taken care of by Messua and her husband. But Mowgli can never be away from the jungle and he comes back. He kills Sher Khan, reunites with his brothers and joins the pack as a full fledged contributing member. The chronicles of Mowgli is told through 3 stories namely, “Mowgli's Brothers”, “Kaa's Hunting” and “Tiger, Tiger”. Another unique feature of Kipling's jungle book is that each story is followed by a series of couplets which may be parodies or just sing along verses.
Followed by Mowgli's three tales, Kipling presents “White Seal” where the readers are taken to the frigid climes of the Bering sea where seals are hunted indiscriminately. He tells the story of Kottick a furry white seal who takes upon himself to lead his family to a safe haven with out hunters. In “Toomai of the elephants” Rudyard Kipling tells about a boy who wants to be an elephant handler and is informed about the myth of the Elephant dance. A magical night with the elephants gets Toomai his night to remember and the reader a tale never to forget. Then comes the “Servants of the Queen” where a British officer eavesdrop the conversation between the camp animals in the night gaining more insights about his own life and his friends.
Btu my favorite is “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”, the story of a spunky mongoose who is adopted by a genteel Anglican family. He protects the family against the vicious cobra's Nag and Nagina. The effervescent tale about the snakes, their family, their children and Rikki's friends Darzee the bird all come together in a memorable way.
All these charming stories may enthrall children, but these are for adults too, because adults are the ones who need more humanism in their life. Where can you learn to be a better human but from our diverse animal life.

The Jungle book (published in 1894) - A collection of stories by Rudyard Kipling