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Tony Grist

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The Next Two Stories [Jan. 30th, 2010|11:07 am]
Tony Grist
The next two stories are political. "The Man Who Was" warns against Russian aggression on the North-West frontier- and prophesies a war that never happened. "The Head of The District" is an attack on the Viceroys's policy of appointing Bengalis to high office in the Indian civil service.

Kipling was an Imperialist. He could get heated in defence of his political views. And when he got heated he simplified. These two stories muster a range of racial stereotypes- Russians are cruel and sneaky, Pathans are lovable and childish, Sikhs are noble, Bengalis are venal and cowardly, only white men are fit to rule-  calculated to make a 21st century liberal shudder. When he wasn't being political he rose far above this Punch and Judy level. There are two Kiplings. There's Kipling the journalist and Kipling the artist. When the journalist is in control the work suffers.
 
"The Man Who Was" takes us inside an officer's mess and shows us how it works- which is interesting. And "The Head of the District" is a ripping yarn with two splendid passages- one moving, the other horrific. Otherwise they are stories about problems that arose and were settled a long time ago in an Empire that no longer exists.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: huskyteer
2010-01-30 12:18 pm (UTC)
My winter motorcycle gloves are called Pathans. I had no idea it was the name of a people!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-30 12:49 pm (UTC)
These days we call them Pashtuns- for some reason or other....
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From: (Anonymous)
2010-01-30 12:28 pm (UTC)

wot no mention of blair-bliar?

Jenny
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-30 12:57 pm (UTC)

Re: wot no mention of blair-bliar?

What's there to say? Nothing that happened yesterday changes my view of him. The man has an unshakeable belief in his own rectitude- and lacks the imagination to grasp what his war cost in terms of human suffering.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2010-01-30 03:05 pm (UTC)
My Kipling set doesn't include the re-collections such as Life's Handicaps. I'd happily read along with you, but I'll need the Table of Contents. All the Three Musketeers stories were in Soldiers Three.

I take issue with your summation, though, at least as far as The Man Who Was is concerned. I'd say that it's a chilling meditation upon the disintegration of the human mind under appalling conditions -- and the surprising tenacity of a kernel of self despite that.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-30 03:51 pm (UTC)
The Man Who Was doesn't particularly do it for me, but I take your point.

I think there my be differences between the American and British editions of Kipling's work. My copy of Soldiers Three (1891) is a small book containing 7 stories. The rest of the canon is to be found elsewhere.

Anyway, here are the remaining stories from Life's Handicap:

Without Benefit of Clergy
At The End of the Passage
The Mutiny of the Mavericks
The Mark of the Beast
The Return of Imray
Namgay Doola
The Lang Men o' Larut
Bertran and Bimi
Reigelder and the German Flag
The Wandering Jew
Through the Fire
The Finances of the Gods
The Amir's homily
Jews in Shshan
The Limitations of Pambe Serang
Little Tobrah
Moti-Guj- Mutineer
Bubbling Well Road
The City of Dreadful Night
Georgie Porgie
Naboth
The Dream of Duncan Parrenness
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2010-01-30 03:54 pm (UTC)
Without Benefit of Clergy is seared into my head but I'll read it tonight, along with At the End of the Passage. One of the fine things about my set is the Index in the last volume!

"Only a penny a pound, baba" -- it could break your heart.

Edited at 2010-01-30 03:55 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-30 04:59 pm (UTC)
I've just re-read Without Benefit of Clergy- undoubtedly one of Kipling's finest things. I'll think about it overnight before posting.

Which edition do you have? My Kipling is a rag-tag collection- with a lot of first editions in the mix. You could buy them very cheap in the 70s. My copy of Life's Handicap- a London first edition- cost me £1.50- which is and was ridiculous.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-30 07:43 pm (UTC)
Scribner, yes?

Very nice!
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2010-01-30 08:47 pm (UTC)
Scribner, yes. And Kipling was right about a Russian excursion to Afghanistan...just off by about a century. He's remarkably prescient, and I think all the folks who pontificate about events in that neck of the woods would do well to pay better attention to him. Strickland Sahib is the very model of what should be done in the way of counterinsurgency and intelligence.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-01-30 09:17 pm (UTC)
But by the time the Russians got there the North West frontier was no longer our responsibility.

I agree. If our policy makers had read their Kipling they might have thought twice about getting bogged down in Afghanistan.
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