Synopses & Reviews
Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time
Filled with lyrical, exotic prose and nostalgia for Rudyard Kipling’s native India, Kim is widely acknowledged as the author’s greatest novel and a key element in his winning the 1907 Nobel Prize in Literature. It is the tale of an orphaned sahib and the burdensome fate that awaits him when he is unwittingly dragged into the Great Game of Imperialism. During his many adventures, he befriends a sage old Tibetan lama who transforms his life. As Pankaj Mishra asserts in his Introduction, “To read the novel now is to notice the melancholy wisdom that accompanies the native boy’s journey through a broad and open road to the narrow duties of the white man’s world: how the deeper Buddhist idea of the illusion of the self, of time and space, makes bearable for him the anguish of abandoning his childhood.”
Introduction by John Bayley
"From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Pankaj Mishra is the author of The Romantics. He is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books, The New Statesman, and The Times Literary Supplement. He lives in London.
Reading Group Guide
1. For decades many critics have shown great disdain for Kipling, equating his work with the idea that British imperialism was a righteous and justified act. Is this assessment fair? Was Kipling simply writing what he knew or structuring his literature on his political beliefs?
2. As Kim moves from the intellectual world of school to the spiritual world he finds with the lama later in the story, he continually questions who he is. Is this questioning simply that of a young orphan or does it hint at larger political unease?
3. What is the purpose of the prophecy Kim brings to the soldiers?
4. Is it surprising, given Kims spirituality, that he joins the Secret Service? How does he reconcile his two separate lives?
5. In a 1943 essay, critic Edmund Wilson referred to the ending of Kim as a “betrayal” of the relationship of the old man and the young Kim, which made the book more literary than a mere adventure story. Do you agree with this? Why or why not?
6. In her article “Adolescence, Imperialism, and Identity in Kim and Pegasus in Flight,” Nicole Didicher says, “Adults writing for adolescents inevitably use imperialist discourse to influence their readers maturation. Kipling . . . uses an existing imperialist society to present the protagonists establishment of his psychosocial identity.” Do you agree that all adult writers “inevitably” use imperialist discourse to reach their adolescent audiences? Did Kipling use imperialist India because that is what he knew, or was he simply entertaining a young audience?