About the BookKim, a picaresque novel by Rudyard Kipling, was published serially in McClure’s Magazine, before being published in book form in 1901. The story is set in India in the backdrop of the political conflict between Russia and Britain, after the end of second Afghan war which ended in 1881. The book portrays people, culture and varied religions in India.
Kim, a boy of Irish descent who is orphaned and grows up independently in the streets of India, is taken care of by a ‘half-caste’ woman, a keeper of an opium den. Although out and out an Irish boy, he grows up as a ‘native’ and acquires the ability to seamlessly blend into the many ethnic and religious groups of the Indian subcontinent. When he meets a wandering Tibetan lama who is in search of a sacred river, Kim becomes his follower and proceeds on a journey covering the whole of India. Kipling’s account of Kim’s travels throughout the subcontinent gave him the opportunity to describe the many peoples and cultures that made the fabric of Indian society at that time. A significant portion of the novel is devoted to such descriptions, which have been lauded both as magical and visionary, and derided as stereotypical and imperialistic.
Kim eventually comes upon the army regiment that his father had belonged to and makes the acquaintance of Colonel Creighton who recognizes Kim’s great talent for blending into the many diverse cultures of India and trains him to become a spy and a mapmaker for the British army. The exploits that Kim has as a spy, his endearing relationship with the lama, and the craftsmanship of Kipling’s writing have made this adventurous and descriptive novel to stand as a minor classic of historical English literature.
In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Kim No. 78 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.