Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The original

That news of an inscribed first edition of The Jungle Book has created so much buzz is a reminder of the enduring thrill of rediscovering Rudyard Kipling and his work. The copy recently discovered by librarians in Cambridgeshire bears the inscription: “This book belongs to Josephine Kipling for whom it was written by her father, May 1894.” Josephine died five years later at the age of six, and for Kipling’s readers the inscription deepens an understanding of the deep family attachments that informed his work. His father, John Lockwood Kipling, participated in early editions of The Jungle Book and of Kim as an illustrator.

The biographical sketches are in fact not mere asides in reading Kipling. Even in his lifetime (he was born in 1865 and died in 1936, neatly overlapping with the dominant phase of the British Empire) and especially after India’s Independence he was at the heart of a bitterly polarised post-colonial culture war. For his enthralled readers, however, it was by tracing his fidelity to experience and history that a more complicated and enormously inclusive middle ground was found.

Kipling’s may have been a remembered India but his reporter’s discipline and personal experience informed these two books to a degree that continues to amaze.

Full report here Indian Express

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