Monday, September 17, 2012

The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling

Why I read it: Saw the movie when I was young and loved it.

Summary: In a chance encounter, a newspaperman in India meets an itinerant troublemaker who plans to become a king.

My Thoughts: I don't know who it was that came up with the concept of the wide-eyed first person reporter of secondhand stories, but Kipling perfected it.

Think about it. There is no safer way to tell a story, to give it credulity, than to do so through an astonished listener who can then turn to the audience at the end and say, "Now I cannot vouch for the tale myself, but I can rely it to you as it was passed on to me." There's a bit of Commander McBragg in Peachey Carnehan, and a little of his foil in the newspaperman. Quite.

The story itself flows from the train cars to the mountains of Afghanistan, and is certainly showing of its time, especially in epithetical references to the natives. And Kipling's distrust of women shows through in the culmination of the reign of Daniel Dravot and Carnehan. It doesn't take long between the breaking of their pact (no booze, no women) and the collapse of their empire.

I remember being enthralled by the Sean Connery adaptation of the story as a youth, and vowing to read the story. But that was more than 30 years ago. Eh, that's what a long, well-led life is for. Keep building the list, you'll get to it eventually. Read on!

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