|The Next Two Stories
||[Jan. 30th, 2010|11:07 am]
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.