Great Book: Kim, by Rudyard Kipling

After reading The Game, by Laurie R. King, I had to read the British classic that inspired it, Kim by Rudyard Kipling. Kim appeared as a character in The Game, which takes place in early twentieth century India. He was a mature adult, an experienced player of 'the Game' (fun with spies!) and functioned as a player and a prize.

I wasn't at all familiar with Kim, so I didn't have the background. Kim is the son of an Irish soldier - the legitimate white son of an Irish soldier. He is orphaned and raised in the streets by his father's native mistress. He apprentices himself to a Tibetan monk, and after a series of misadventures, is discovered by the staff of his father's unit, who drag him off to school and eventually recruit him into the service of The Crown as a number-letter combination. That's the plot. The meat of the book is a travelogue-ish description of the sights and sounds of India and the glory of 'The Road', the development of Kim from a devilish child to a devilish adult, and the lama's spiritual journey.

Poor Kim. I wonder why 'the woman who looked after him' receives such short shrift. She is, at the beginning of the book, the only soul who cares about him, but he walks away from her without looking back. He is so bereft of human connection that after only a few short weeks on the road with the lama, he can't bear to be parted from him.

What is the connection between them? The description of Teshoo Lama's faith is surprisingly accurate. He is seeking to divest himself of passions & emotions; to find his purest self so he can travel to the next plane and leave the Wheel of existence. Perhaps it's this lack of connectedness that attracts Kim, chameleon and orphan, to him. Kim isn't a Hindu or a Muslim, Kim has no caste, and he isn't really a Sahib either. Though he can't disguise himself as Kim is taught to do, Teshoo Lama is one of the few people in India who share his lack of definition and identity.

1 comment:

Fifth said...

Sounds cool.

Have you read Tim Powers' "Declare"?

He seems to have been inspired by "Kim".