My post on Kipling and his critics for Normblog

As mentioned last week, Norman Geras was kind enough not only to invite me to contribute to the Writer’s Choice feature on his website, but also to allow me to split my contribution over two weeks.

My first piece, on Rudyard Kipling and The Jungle Book, can be read here. The second piece, posted today can be accessed here. It is on Kipling and his critics – and more broadly on the difficulty of reading him without prejudice.

UPDATE: The article is now up on my blog here.

2 thoughts on “My post on Kipling and his critics for Normblog

  1. “On The City Walls” is a fine story – thank you. Did Rushdie know how Victorian soldiers spoke? Kipling would have first hand experience. “On Greenhow Hill” has great dialogue.

    The former are quite obviously and unavoidably clumsy embodiments of the working class, the untutored mob as vermin whose aspirations must be quashed. As a child of ten – raised as I was in a left-wing household – that was embarrassingly evident even to me.”

    Do you think so? Raised in a working class household, I’d never picked up on that. Surely it’s not that their aspirations must be quashed, but that they’re dangerous to a mole and a rat – as I’m sure weasels are. It’s the badlands, the bit of the map with “here be dragons”. (The Bandar-log I always assumed were a caricature of a kind of left populism – “we all say so, so it must be true” – distant relatives of Orwell’s sheep in Animal Farm.)

    “(Akela) demands absolute obedience to himself and to the law of the jungle he embodies. Myself, I found that a curious request in suburban London”

    Not so curious in urban London, though the law may not be that Kipling imagined.

  2. Many many thanks for your comment.
    Re: the weasels et al in The Wind in the Willows, it’s possible that I have the age of my response wrong – I might have been twelve rather than ten, say – but I clearly remember thinking and feeling that from a fairly early age. It’s certainly true that I was very sensitive to class distinctions – or perhaps more precisely, painfully aware of being middle class and conscious of that identity as a source of discomfort, possibly even guilt – so that may be some kind of psychological explanation. It has taken me a long time to find any sort of comfort or confidence in simply being myself – or what I conceive myself to be.
    I can’t remember thinking of mole, rat, etc as actual animals, to be honest, so the idea of the weasels and stoats as simply being their natural enemies has never occurred to me. Conversely, I have never thought of the Bandar-log as political caricatures either. That’s a really interesting idea – I must re-read the story and think about that!
    Many thanks again. (And I take your point re: urban/suburban London.)

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