Introduced by Jan Morris
Illustrated by Oliver Hurst
Kipling’s masterpiece: a panoramic portrait of India and a coming-of-age spy story. Newly illustrated by Oliver Hurst.
The orphaned son of an Irish soldier stationed in India, Kimball O’Hara has grown up indistinguishable from the street urchins of Lahore. Raised to believe that a great destiny awaits him, he befriends a Tibetan lama and joins him on his quest to free himself from ‘the Wheel of Things’ and discover the ‘River of the Arrow’. But, as their journey progresses, Kim finds himself caught up in the shadowy conflicts between the empires of Britain and Russia – the Great Game.
‘The very best picture of India by an English author’
Kipling’s greatest novel, Kim was instrumental in winning him the 1907 Nobel Prize in Literature and reflects many of his own struggles with his Anglo-Indian identity. When finished, he said it had grown ‘like a Djinn released’. It is a love letter to India, depicting it as a place of inexhaustible life force and vast human, geographic and spiritual variety; but is also a gripping tale of espionage and counter-espionage. Above all, it is the story of an orphan boy growing up to become a master spy – all the while seeking to answer the question
‘Who is Kim?’
‘There is no sin so great as ignorance’
Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay in 1865. He was sent to live with an abusive foster-family in Portsmouth aged seven, before being sent to the United Services College in Devon (fondly recalled in Stalky & Co. (published in 1889)). In 1882, Kipling returned to India to work as a reporter, and the poems, sketches and stories he wrote during this time, particularly ‘Plain Tales from the Hills’ (1888), brought him immediate acclaim and celebrity. Kipling married the American Caroline Balestier in 1892 and lived for four years in Vermont, where he wrote the two Jungle Books (1894, 1895). They moved to England in 1896 from where Kipling continued to travel and write, including Kim (1901), the Just So Stories (1902), Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906) and Rewards and Fairies (1910). Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907. Initially a strong supporter of the First World War, Kipling worked as a correspondent in France but became a less ardent voice following the devastating loss of his son John at the battle of Loos in 1915. A major figure in the Imperial War Graves Commission, Kipling successfully argued for equality of treatment for all ranks in respect to their burial, and chose or composed inscriptions for numerous memorials. He died in January 1936 and was buried in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey.
For this edition, Oliver Hurst has contributed nine new evocative illustrations – strongly influenced by 19th-century paintings – that beautifully convey the adventurous tone of the novel. The slipcase shows the symbol – a ‘Red Bull on a green field’ – that guides Kim’s quest.
Jan Morris’s introduction traces the influences behind Kim, from spiritualism to Don Quixote, and praises this ‘wise, complex and kindly masterpiece’ written by a great artist at the height of his powers.
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