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Kim by Rudyard Kipling

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Kim by Rudyard Kipling

A kids podcast from Loyal Books

Present day readers live in a world that’s emerged from the Cold War and the endless rivalry of the Super Powers but this book goes back and traces the origins of the conflict and mutual antagonism between nations.

Kim by Rudyard Kipling is set against the background of the Great Game as it was called the tug-of-war between Britain and Russia for the control of Central Asia. The novel’s action takes place during the Anglo-Afghan Wars of 1839-42. The novel’s sweeping narrative, the depth of character and the sheer historical scale make it a first rate story.

Nobel Prize winning author Rudyard Kipling is not much in fashion today. He is considered a relict of Imperialism and the old colonial tradition. Yet, his work remains relevant and incisive even today, in the climate of Neo-Imperialism and the economic and social colonialism practiced by many big powers. As a brilliant and most authentic portrait of Victorian British India, Kim remains unrivaled. It is also a wonderful coming of age story, peopled with remarkable and memorable characters, and traces the young hero’s poignant search for identity, caught as he is between two cultures.

Kimball O’Hara (or Kim) lives an itinerant existence in 19th century India, where Imperialism is at its peak. He is the young son of poor Irish parents who are both no more. He survives by running occasional errands for a Pashtun horse-trader called Mahbub Ali in Lahore. Mahbub Ali is actually an undercover agent working for the British. Kim leaves Lahore and joins a Tibetan lama in the quest for a legendary river. Ali meets and recruits Kim to his spy ring, but Kim is rescued by an old friend of his father’s and sent off to study in a good boarding school in Lucknow. He remains in touch with Ali and the Lama. Upon completing his schooling, he is recruited by the British government and enters the Great Game in earnest. The rest of the novel follows Kim’s career and deals with the final choices he has to make in life.

Kim is a book that can be read on many levels—a gripping adventure story, a brilliant picture of childhood and a mystical tale of the spiritual traditions of India. For modern readers, the current situation in Afghanistan seems all too close to what is depicted as happening more than a century ago.

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