Dedicated to classics and hits.

Monday, December 19, 2011


by Rudyard Kilpling
p. 1901
Penguin Classics Edition
this edition 2011

  Now we're talking classic literature!  After over three years of 18th century and early 19th century novels I can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.  By "light at the end of the tunnel" I mean relieve from the strictures of the 19th century European Realist novel.  Soooo tedious.  I don't read novels to learn about the well observed rituals of life among the lower bourgeois of 19th century France.  And while I appreciate the technical accomplishments of the 19th century realists, I don't fetishize the technique.   I certainly don't care to wallow in the morass of Victorian family novels.  If I want to learn about the 19th century European bourgeois I'll  read non-fiction.

  KIM is what you call a Bildungsroman or "coming of age story."  It's also a foundation block of any body of "colonial literature," perhaps the progenitor of the genre.  KIM is also an enduring classic that maintains an audience among children and adult.  The Puffin Classics version of the book I read was published in 2011- the cover shows a sophisticated graphic sensibility and the kind of additional materials you expect from an Oxford Classics Edition- but pitched for high school kids, not college students or adults.

   I think it's a testament to the strength of this book that it appeals equally to professors of literature and children all over the world.  That is what you call a classic work of art: Appealing to different Audiences over a long time period.  Late twentieth century PC derived concerns aside, KIM is a superb example of a top 100 novel- a clear way station on the path between the Novel as mostly European Art Form and it's emergence into the great wide world.  I think you could argue that the story of the Novel in the 20th century is the emergence of great novels from countries outside of UK, US, France & Germany.  Particularly important are the bodies of work that came from South Asia, Africa & Latin America.

  This transition begins with the literature of colonialism and imperialism because it developed an Audience for novels about those locations.   It was the desire of people from those places to develop their own stories in the colonizing format that created the explosion of diversity in the novel during the 20th century.

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