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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ignore agendas, resist the New System
I wonder if Kipling's most vitriolic critics have read anything about him (or by him) besides caustic post-colonial dissertations. Surely they can't pretend that they've read KIM with silly labels such as "imperialistic," "ignorant," "globalizing," and "racist." I advise these misguided flowers to read without agendas.
But of...
Published on Jan. 10 2003 by Ludwig Strauss

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still worth reading
This is a very entertaining novel, though not as good as the best of Kipling's short stories. As an adventure-oriented bildungsroman, Kim is well constructed with its gradual exposure of the ethnic and religous diversity of India, its engaging characters, and good quality of writing. While written as an adventure novel, Kim is also Kipling's prediction of the British...
Published on Jan. 12 2003 by R. Albin


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ignore agendas, resist the New System, Jan. 10 2003
By 
Ludwig Strauss (Wareham, MA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 20th Century Kim (Paperback)
I wonder if Kipling's most vitriolic critics have read anything about him (or by him) besides caustic post-colonial dissertations. Surely they can't pretend that they've read KIM with silly labels such as "imperialistic," "ignorant," "globalizing," and "racist." I advise these misguided flowers to read without agendas.
But of course reading without agendas nowadays would so offend our academies that it's absolutely impossible. KIM *is* a simple story, as one reviewer already mentioned, that does not really deal with colonial "assumptions" whatsoever. In fact, I marvel at how people ignore the basic fact that Kim resisted his Sahib identity when we could only sympathize with him. Kim contrasts well with THE JUNGLE BOOK'S Mowgli because he disdains most social groups, preferring above all his lama and "the road." If anything, his "yearning" toward colonization near the book's end (itself dubiously proven) probably reflects his educational indoctrination, if anything else. Kipling surely wasn't a stupid writer, and it's probably no coincidence that Kim turns to colonialism only after the Sahibs educate and recruit him in "the Great Game." Whether that's good or bad is irrelevant; Kipling does not justify, advocate or endorse colonialism in KIM. Nor does he waste space needlessly attacking it. Why do people need fiction to contain ideology? Why can't people understand that some stories are about characters and that authors imposing their voices is sometimes unnecessary? "Adult" perspectives in the novel, which critics charge could never come from Kim, come from adult characters. Duh. Kipling, unlike his postmodern butchers, did not write with an agenda.
Unfortunately for his reputation, Kipling professed elsewhere that he favored colonialism and the White Man's Burden. Readers, even more unfortunately, approach his books with such prejudices, prepared to pounce on his literature at the slightest provocation and blame him for not explicitly condemning British imperialism. I'm sorry that people hold such depressing views of how fiction should be written.
A note on the Penguin edition: I found its CONSTANT "scholastic" footnotes irritating and insulting. I can read a book without being told what Buddhism is, thanks. Then again, all those numbers detract from the story itself and advocate the editor's agenda that this book isn't to be enjoyed at all, but only to be jeered at in a postmodern armpit.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Classic, June 25 2004
By 
R. Mitra, mystery author "author" (Long Island, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Kim (Hardcover)
So why am I writing a review of a book published in the early 1900s?
I hope some young people will read all the positive reviews and pick up the book and have a great time. No Stephen King or Dean Koontz wrote this. A wonderfully narrated book of a time that is not coming back. The language is smooth as flowing honey and the Indian words are used with the skill of one born and brought up there (Kipling was later sent to England to complete his schooling).
Enjoyable even after years and years.
I would recommend to buy the hardcover (Everyman Library) edition. A bargain at Amazon's prices
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a mild but quite thorough story of initiation:, Dec 20 2003
By 
asphlex "asphlex" (Philadelphia, PA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 20th Century Kim (Paperback)
Kim is honestly a fun book. This is not to say that there aren't lapses, tedious mirings that swirl around the overall ebullient excitment, but these stem more from an excess of the author's wordplay than from anything else. The story is on the surface rather quaint: Orphaned British tyke grows up alone in India, has the internal wits and capacity to learn basic survival skills and has the ambition and sense of humor to make something of a name for himself. From there he meets a 'holy man'--not one in the traditional sense of Western (or even Eastern) literature, but here is more of a true seeker, someone not pulled down by the conventions of organized religiousosity, but one moreso looking for a one-on-one understanding of God. There is a great deal of subtle and transmogrified mythologizing--the traditional fables bowled over by reality, the high, idealistic hopes often stunted in birth by more rational and everyday life concerns. Kim, street-smart and wise before his time, is fascinated by the holy man's honesty and feels some compelling need to accompany the man on his random journies.
Kim is the story of two journies, certainly the holy man's as well as Kim's own, the reckoning with cultural identity and the east/west clash in a time of subterfuge and war. It is really a quite powerful story, dulled down at times by the author's seemingly ceaseless wonder, but for a tale marketed as being about a white European lost in the maze of turn-of-the-century India, there is a great deal that is very contemporary and an enormous amount of action and even betrayal.
Give it a go and read it to your kids. There are many valuable life lessons Kipling makes an attempt to teach and many wrong paths he explains to us all about taking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still worth reading, Jan. 12 2003
By 
R. Albin (Ann Arbor, Michigan United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: 20th Century Kim (Paperback)
This is a very entertaining novel, though not as good as the best of Kipling's short stories. As an adventure-oriented bildungsroman, Kim is well constructed with its gradual exposure of the ethnic and religous diversity of India, its engaging characters, and good quality of writing. While written as an adventure novel, Kim is also Kipling's prediction of the British Raj would become. The hero, Kim O'Hara, is in many ways an idealization of what saw as the logical conclusion of British India; a hybrid composed of both Indian and British elements. In an ironic way, this is how things turned out in British India. But where Kim is ethnically British with a largely Indian cultural background, the real inheritors of the British Raj were ethnic Indians (of a variety of ethnicities, castes, and faiths) whose outlook is colored strongly by Western influences.
How this book is read in a 'post-colonial' era is an interesting question. It would be easy, and wrong, to dismiss this book merely as an Imperialist tract, though Kipling clearly supported British Imperial control. It is even wronger to attack Kipling's racism, though there are unquestionably stereotyped elements present. In many ways, Kim is a celebration of India's ethnic and religous diversity. Probably the most unsympathetic characters in the book are not Indian, but Britishers with provincial outlooks. Kipling's support of the Empire is rather more subtle. It is clear that he viewed the existence of the huge and relatively tolerant polyglot society that was the Raj as the result of relatively benign British rule and protection. This is probably true. Without British overlordship, India is likely to have been a congeries of competing states riven by ethnic and religous divisions. Where Kipling is profoundly misleading is what he leaves out, particularly the economic exploitation India and crucial role India played in the Imperial economy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A tug of war between Kipling's two minds, Oct. 15 2003
By 
This review is from: 20th Century Kim (Paperback)
Some say Kipling was an imperialist. Some say he was an Indophile. I think he was both at the same time. One Kipling was a polished and sophisticated part of the ruling class, the British. Another Kipling was a child, innocent of the artificial divisions of the society, fascinated by the color and splendour of the Jewel in the Crown, India. This novel at a subtle level, to me, represents a tug of war between the the two warring Kiplings. While the British elite Kipling is forced to believe in the good the Raj is doing to the poor rascals, the other Kipling has his doubts and frustrated by his inability to declare them freely, they find a veiled expression in Kim.
Kim is a Classic story of a boy's adventure in British India. There runs a background plot about "the great game", the spying war between the British and the Russian empires. Kim becomes a chain-man (spy) for the British and his native early years make him formidable in the profession. However more interesting is the other parallel story, that of friendship between Kim and a Tibetan lama and their wanderings together which also make this a road novel.
Kipling understands the oriental way of life and its philosophy. "Only chicken and Sahibs walk around without reason" he says. Through many such comments Kipling questions the western way of work, hurry and constant activity. As the lama says "to refrain from any action is best".
Lastly, one can not but wonder, how much Kim represents a fantacy of Kipling that he wanted to happen to himself. A few common facts between the story and Kipling's own life, for example his father's association with the Lahore Musuem, his own schooling experience etc are revealing. They almost make you hear Kipling sighing "I wish thus would have happened with me!"
Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A classic boy's adventure, Aug. 18 2003
By 
A Yong (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Kim (Mass Market Paperback)
The tale is a classic adventure story, of Kim, Irish orphan growing up as a street urchin in northern India. It is a colourful picture of a short period in history when East and West met and were intertwined during the British Raj in India. Unromantic lefty dullards will go on about the imperialist tone of the book. But the book tells of an India so gloriously rich and diverse that the British are simply absorbed like conquerors before, one caste among hundreds: Moghuls, Brahmins and Sikhs, Pathans and Tibetans.
We are left in no illusions about the political realities of imperial India. We know that the white man is in charge, though they are shown to consist of fools like the Anglican chaplain as well as good men like Colonel Creighton. Like heroes such as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings or Shasta in C S Lewis' A Horse and His Boy, Kim is always aware deep down (and it strengthens him even though at times he hates it) that he is set apart, of a nobler race, because he is a Sahib. Yet this seems perfectly natural in India, a land of myriad castes and classes, from high-born Brahmins to low, despised, Untouchables.
The characters are brilliant and amusing: Kim is such a lovable scamp ("You - you Od! Thy mother was married under a basket!") I find it hard to understand how anyone can fail to be immediately absorbed in his world and his fortunes. Hurree Babu and Mahbub Ali are likeable Indian characters. The Tibetan holy man, whom Kim follows as a disciple, portrayed in such a tender light that for all his scattiness one believes in his holiness, and we understand why Kim follows and loves him like a father.
But this is a boy's book, and the female characters are marginal and unsympathetically treated. Most will find the Indian slang and jargon tough going, unless they are willing to skim it over, and it is often necessary to keep a finger on the glossary at the end of the book. Nonetheless, beautifully written, and a Good Read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The original spy-kid., July 25 2003
By 
S Smyth (Belfast, Co Antrim United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: 20th Century Kim (Paperback)
The orphaned son of a British Army officer learns the way of the streets of India, where he acts as a courier, and sometimes a spy, for locals who are in the pay of the British as spies, in their pursuit of the Great Game, in which the 19th century empires of Europe and Asia vie for control of India - the jewel-in-the crown of the British Empire.
At the age of thirteen, Kim befriends a Lama who is seeking a mystical river. Kim accompanies him on his search, and takes an important message to a British Officer regarding the nature of a white stallion's pedigree, which is really information about a tribal conspiracy. So Kim embarks upon an adventure which will lead him to his father's old regiment and his induction - after suitable testing - into the Great Game.
Not too much to do with the British Empire directly in terms of the Imperium and the underdog, the Indians with their tribal fiefdoms and a myriad of caste and religious divisions keeping the pot boiling well enough on their own. So there's not much jingoism evident.
I was struck by how much a couple of the characters resembled some of those by Fritz Leiber, and C.J. Cherryh. Kim was akin to Fritz Leiber's Gray Mouser. And the old woman in the carriage reminded me of Illisidi from C.J. Cherryh's Foreigner series.

I found the quality of the writing suffered from very abrupt changes in events, which required a couple of re-reads of many sections to get the hang of what had just happened. The most literary section was the one describing Kim and the Lama's trek through the mountains in the end section. The rest was to a good standard, but would have benefited from a more point-of-view style to keep things on a more even keel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Kipling's Kim and Komments on Kim, June 26 2003
By 
Highlander (Albuquerque, NM USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 20th Century Kim (Paperback)
Kim is a book that I had meant to read for nearly 20 years. When I finally got around to it, I first read the Amazon.com reviews and noted they seemed to divide into two camps. The first camp was overwhelmingly favorable; the other was guardedly favorable. The reviews that were guarded said, in the aggregate, that Kim was enjoyable for various reasons, but that it bore the baggage of racism and imperialism. For these and other reasons, Kim must be seen for what it really was. And there were some reviews were quite critical -- describing Kim as a plotless, meandering exercise in boredom.
The Kim that I read had a plot. A common plot. Those who have read Huckleberry Finn would recognize it. It is a coming of age novel placed about 130 years ago.
Imperialism and racism. Well, yes -- if you are viewing Kim from the viewpoint of a revisionist political commentator. Kim's India has a white ruling class and a darker skinned ruled class. This social structure is strikingly similar to the historical relationship between the British and the Indians during the Raj. And Kim is caught up in the Great Game, much like the historical Great Game. The British did want to continue to hold India from enemies foreign and domestic and Kim reflects that historical point of view. It was, after all, written during the Raj and within chronological shouting distance of the Game.
Racism. Yes. British characters, often presented in most unsympathetic ways, do have a racial stereotype of the Indians. And, the Indians have a racial stereotype of the sahibs. But the Indians are not what they want to seem to the British -- they are much, much deeper. Babu is a Babu -- if his mask is all the reader sees. Strikingly like real life.
When caught in the web of current social generalities, Kim is certainly a suspect tome. But Kim is literature. And, as literature, it is a tour de force of language and description and imagery of an India and a Raj long gone. Its main characters are all human and complex and the opposite of stereotyped. The interplay between the values and growth of the lama and the growth and experience of Kim is compelling and warming. When all is said and read, the lama has found his river in the only place it could be found. And Kim, I think, has found himself in the dust of an Indian plain ... an Indian in a Englishman's skin and an Englishman who has the gift of seeing himself as the Indian others see him.
If you are interested in India, pre- or post-Raj, do yourself a favor. Settle down with Kim and travel the Great Trunk Road, winter in Simla, and seek the River of the Arrow with your lama. Don't allow modern, political generalities deny you a wonderful adventure.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Game, Nov. 28 2002
By 
Guillermo Maynez (Mexico, Distrito Federal Mexico) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: 20th Century Kim (Paperback)
Kim is a young boy, a naughty rascal from the streets of Lahore, very much in the tradition of Huck Finn or Lázaro de Tormes, heroes of the picaresque. He is the child of a dead Irish soldier and a native woman who is addicted to opium, so he is pretty much on his own, wandering around all day and being called "the friend of all the world". He has been told that he is destined for great things, and that he will meet his fate when he sees "a red bull on a green field". One day, a mysterious holy man arrives in Lahore and Kim leaves with him. He travels around India with this holy lama, experiencing many adventures in this vast, colorful and dangerous land. Of course he meets his destiny and soon he is playing "the Great Game", that is, he becomes a spy for the English crown in its war to retain control over India and Afghanistan (yep, trouble goes that far back and more).
This is simply a delightful book about an extraordinary hero and his even more extraordinary mentor, the wise lama. If you are attracted by India, this will be a real treat, since it allows you to experience the magic, color, tastes and smells of this interesting nation, in the midst of exciting adventure and spy-games. Kipling was a very good writer who had the trick of writing intelligent books disguised as children iterature. Don't let him cheat you: this is a great novel about a bygone age.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Vast in its simplicity, Feb. 8 2002
By 
William Krischke (Portland, OR United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Kim (Paperback)
In all its complexity, this really is a simple book: it is simply an exuberant vision of India.
I wanted a book that would give me an English Colonialist view of India. It is a rather hard thing to find: few English Victorian writers of any consequence wrote about India. It wasn't until later, ie, Orwell and Forster, that it became a popular topic, and they wrote with a vastly different attitude. I just wanted to know what an Englishman thought of the "jewel in the English colonial crown".
What I found is exactly what I wanted: so exactly that it caught me off guard. Kipling offers no politics, neither "problems of England in India" or "The White Man's Burden". Kim is, quite simply, a vision of India. Exuberant, complex, vibrant, full of energy and life and change. This is Kipling's India. It is a beautiful, mysterious, dangerous, amazing place.
There is a hint of mass market fiction here -- the basic structure being a young boy, a prodigy, uniquely equipped to help the adults in important "adult" matters -- reminds me of Ender's Game or Dune (both books I loved, but not exactly "literature". But perhaps this isn't either. Such was the claim of critic after critic. But anyway.) Yet in reality it is only a device -- an excuse for Kipling to take his boy on adventures and to immerse us more fully in the pugnant waters of Indian culture -- or cultures.
As far as the English/Colonialism question goes, perhaps the real reason Kipling drew so much flak is because he deals his English critics the most cruel insult -- worse than calling them evil, or stupid, or wrong, he implies that they just don't matter that much. Kipling's India is a diverse place, with a plethora of people groups in it, divided by caste, religion, ethnicity, whatever. And the English, the "Sahibs"? Another people group. That's all. They don't dominate or corrupt or really change anything in any profound way; they just sort of become part of the broiling swirl of cultures and peoples that is India.
--
williekrischke@hotmail.com
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20th Century Kim by Rudyard Kipling (Paperback - Feb. 28 1990)
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