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Quest for Kim: In Search of Kipling's Great Game [Paperback]

Peter Hopkirk
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Paperback, Oct. 7 1999 --  

Book Description

Oct. 7 1999
This book is for all those who love Kim, the masterpiece of Indian life in which Kipling immortalized the Great Game, the centuries-old power struggle between Russia and Great Britain in the depths of Central Asia. Fascinated since childhood by this strange tale of an orphan boy's recruitment into the Indian secret service, Peter Hopkirk here explores the many mysteries surrounding Kipling's great novel.
"This is a fascinating, brilliantly written book, as interesting in its description of the author's journeys as it is in its investigation of the reality that lies behind 'the finest novel in the English language with an Indian theme,'" as Kim has been described by Nirad Chaudhuri." --T. J. Binyon, Times Literary Supplement
"In an original combination of autobiography, travel writing, and literary detective work, Hopkirk manages accessibly to tell the story of Kim and his own obsession with it. Hopkirk illustrates how creatively and thoroughly the reading of a work of fiction can shape a whole life's experience." -- John R. Bradley, Independent on Sunday
". . . a reminder of just how absorbing was the world Kipling knew, and how fabulous was his transformation of it into literature." --Richard Bernstein, New York Times
Peter Hopkirk has traveled widely over many years in the regions where his books are set--Central Asia, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and the Middle East. His nearly twenty years with The Times included work as an Asian affairs specialist. His previous books include The Great Game, Foreign Devils on the Silk Road, Trespassers on the Roof of the World, Setting the East Ablaze, and Our Secret Service East of Constantinople. His works have been translated into twelve languages.

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Review

`Review from previous edition 'Charming and evocative, full of curious discoveries and unlikely serendipities ... highly recommended.' ' William Dalrymple, Sunday Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

Maps & line drawings throughout --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating travelogue/study of Kim Sept. 24 2003
Format:Paperback
In this study of Kipling's novel Kim, Peter Hopkirk attempts to follow the story as he travels approximately the same route as Kim does in his adventures. On the way he discusses many of the characters and places, attempting to put them in their real world historical context. So the book is part travel narrative, part literary study and part historical research. This interesting melange is mixed very well.
Hopkirk is writing from an imperialist perspective; that is: the agents of the British empire are the good guys. But as long as you understand where he is coming from, there is nothing to detract the value of this book as a historical study.
It is very readable, and an interesting approach to a great book. But don't read it before reading Kim itself, because this book gives away too much of they story.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Light but enjoyable introduction to India and Kim. March 21 2002
Format:Paperback
That Mr. Hopkirk comes to the study of "Kim" as an historian, and not as an author of literature is immediately apparent to the reader of "Quest for Kim". The prose could hardly be called beautiful, and phrases and large passages are repeated throughout the work. With that fact recognized, Hopkirk's pedestrian prose is certainly sufficient to convey the information he has put together, and even the most ill-formed of his writing cannot cover his deep and passionate love for his subject. And this is what makes "Quest for Kim" such a joy to read, even for one who knows much of what Hopkirk says: his love of the work is contagious and inspiring; it brings pleasure to see how much pleasure he gets from it. Many readers may, as this one was, be uninterested in whether the characters in "Kim" were modelled after real-life contemporaries of Kipling, let alone where these real-life men lived, and yet the sections -- and there are many of them -- seeking out the homes of Colonel Creighton and Lurgan Sahib never fall into dullness because they are buoyed up with their historically interesting descriptions of late 18th-century India and the fun that Hopkirk clearly had looking into the matter.
On finishing "Quest for Kim", one may be left with the feeling that the historical information contained therein could have been greater in both quantity and detail. One will certainly not feel greatly informed on the literary qualities of "Kim", beyond that Hopkirk is extremely impressed by them. "Quest for Kim" is not a great scholarly tome, but it is an enjoyable read, encompassing a light, welcoming introduction to a study of British India and "Kim" itself wrapped in a pleasant narrative of one man's brief travels through Pakistan and India.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Journey Worth Taking March 15 2002
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Format:Paperback
Peter Hopkirk has made Central Asia and the Asian subcontinent his area of interest and the result has been several fine histories about various aspects of the area. Here he returns to the Great Game, that shadowy world of intrigue between Englan and Czarist Russia, but with a slight twist. Using Rudyard Kipling's classic novel KIM he takes us on an journey in search of the true nature of the people, places and events in the book. Traveling India and the Nortwest Territories he takes us to the real places and introduces us to the real people on whom many of the characters in the novel were closely modeled on. In the end the Great Game in reality was even more fanatastic than Kipling's fictional creation with many of his outlandish characters coming off quite subdued in comparison to the real ones. As usual Hopkirk's style is that of a story teller and he keeps the narrative moving along quite nicely. In the end good history and armchair travel in one book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not Hopkirk's best, but enjoyable Feb. 3 2002
Format:Paperback
While not as scholarly or well written as FOREIGN DEVILS ON THE SILK ROAD, this was an enjoyable book to read. Hopkirk combined a bit of travelogue, detective story and literary criticism in writing this volume.
The essence of this volume is Hopkirk's search in the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan and northern India for Kipling's Kim. While few of the characters in Kim have direct historical parallels, there were models Kipling drew on for many of them. Kim himself was probably based an orphan of mixed parentage; his father was probably a British army soldier and his mother a Tibetan. Colonel Creighton was probably modeled off of Colonel Montgomerie of the Survey of India, while Lurgan
is believed to be modeled off of A. M. Jacob, a notorious jeweler in Simla. St. Xavier's in Lucknow was probably the source for La Martiniére.
Hopkirk does an excellent job in setting Kim into the Great
Game-the Russo-English rivalry over Afghanistan and the Anglo-French rivalry over the India trade. Throughout the book he also discusses whether Kipling was a racist or not. Unlike many critics who would judge Kipling by today's standards, Hopkirk tries to judge him the mores and values of Victorian England.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A Flawed Masterpiece. Oct. 5 2001
Format:Paperback
The title sounds strange and vague but that is what I feel about this novel. It is a slow but an interesting novel if an individual might just have the patience to let the story/plot build up. Its considered to be Kipling's masterpiece and I will vouch for the same opinion. The range of emotions, the characterisation, the development of plot are all technically perfect, but the novel wants genuine feeling. True, that Kipling presents a very correct picture of 'colonial' India, but the picture is presented through a glass tainted with colonialism. Though Kim's love for India is very real and genuine, its imperialistic under tones are difficult to ignore.
All and all I would say it is a masterpiece albeit flawed
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