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Monday, April 18, 2011


Kim astride the Zam-Zammah; illus.
from first edition (as far as I can tell)
NOTE TO READERS:  Though I came into this next book hoping for something short and simple, I can say with certainty that Kim does not fulfill my hope for brevity and likely similarly fails to fulfill the second--simplicity.  That said, and considering general time constraints of both you (hopefully collective) and me (definitely singular), we will be cutting most, if not all, chapters roughly in half.  I hope this isn't irksome at all, though if it is, well, then tough bananas.  Let's get started.

(This reading from beginning of chapter 1 through paragraph "The curator would have detained him: they are few in the world who still have the secret of the conventional brush-pen Buddhist pictures which are, as it were, half written and half drawn. But the lama strode out, head high in air, and pausing an instant before the great statue of a Bodhisat in meditation, brushed through the turnstiles.")
  1. The opening verse of the chapter is the first of 9 stanzas of the poem "Buddha at Kamakura," from Kipling's collection (originally published just a couple years after Kim), The Five Nations.  Here is a background on the collection, and here is the poem in its entirety within the collection.
  2. The "Zam-Zammah": like the red bull (to come) is quite potentially a symbol of some sort, considering Kim's heritage and current status, as he sits astride it and heckles the locals.
  3. Summarize the position of Kim's birth and his birthright, particularly regarding his status of British orphan left in India.
  4. What do you make of the "red bull in a green field," apart from the brilliance of the image?  Regardless of the "magic" of the Masonic Order, what magic must there always be for Kim in those three papers?  With this magic in mind, what weight might the opiated "prophesy" hold over him?
  5. Label the connection (perhaps it's obvious) between Kim and a prominent character from "Arabian Nights"?  Anything significant here beyond the superficial connection by age and lifestyle?
  6. "The Middle Way."
  7. First impression: The old Lama entering the museum with Kim reminds me of the two Mr. Kumars from Life of Pi.
  8. "Pilgrimage," apart from religious excursion, is a perfect label for which of the -romans?  And so a connection to the Arrow that became a River.
  9. Kim is generally lost listening to the Lama and the curator discuss the museum's holdings, so, as per the note below, I don't see any particular need to ensure our knowledge of the material as this book is narrated through Kim's eyes.  However, the spectacle clearly makes an impression upon Kim.  Thoughts?
  10. "So it comes with all faiths."  What does the curator intend?
  11. The Lama's personal faith interests me.  I am no scholar of world religions, but it seems a little self-contradictory.  Maybe one of you can help me out: What is the Lama's faith?  Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu?  And then what's with the rosary (is this where Martel got the triple-faith backdrop for LoP)?  Why might he want to break free (via the River of the Arrow) of The Wheel of Things?
  12. What of the gift exchange between the two disciples, as the Lama describes the curator and himself?
Wikipedia will surely become an even closer friend than ever through the reading of Kim.  While a certain amount of knowledge--schema--is required, I don't think that to understand what in the world Kipling is talking about, we need to be experts in Islam, Buddhism, Indian history, etcetera, so I don't plan to particularly over-clog the discussion points/questions with links to the encyclopedia (it would, after all, I think amount to a thousand points-per-chapter!), nor will I overindulge myself in writing up my own ecstatic discoveries of India and British-Indian culture.  However, as we read, if you believe I'm remiss in the omission of some key point or observation you've come across, please say so!


  1. Ahh I'm glad that I checked here before I did the reading. I'll try to get it done today, but I can't promise it. I have so many papers to write. It is getting ridiculous.

  2. Ok, I read this today, but frankly, I am thoroughly confused. There's such a barrage of unfamiliar cultural symbols, that I'm not sure what to make of it so far. I think that I am going to finish chapter 1 (maybe even reread the first part tomorrow) and see if it makes any more sense and then come back. Don't lose faith in me! This is just the perfect storm of business in general and confusion in the reading.

  3. I understand, and I'm a little embarrassed: I've had to sort of "install" a filter and let myself skim over an awful lot of the cultural references. I've accustomed myself to it, I think, and the second half of the chapter went more smoothly, but this still isn't an easy read. Worse for me than the cultural references are the historo-political allusions. Again here, though, I think it's a matter of habituation. As we read, there will be certain points that recur and we'll have to gain some understanding of, others we'll be able to leave by the wayside, not that that's what I want to do, necessarily, but there just isn't time to learn everything about late 19th century India.

  4. I think that you're right. The problem may have been that at the beginning, I read every single footnote, and so I never could get a feel for what actually was going on. It's somewhat embarrassing how much more an unabashed British imperialist knows about other cultures than we do. LOL

  5. You've got footnotes! Excellent. I couldn't go out to buy a copy of the book, so I'm using one of the editions from Gutenberg. I expect there will be times (like in the second half of chapter one) when I will make requests for cultural information.

  6. Greetings, stranger!!!

    3. It seems like he's pretty low on the totem pole, even though he's white.
    4. I think that it's mainly a hopeful image that he can turn his situation around.
    5. Arg haven't read.
    10. The curator seems a bit agnostic.
    11. He's Buddhist, right?
    12. The Lama has a very trusting, almost naive nature, almost as if he believes that everyone is working toward his goal in some way or another.

  7. 3. And it seems that he's happy with his social anonymity. He has no ambitions, at least yet, to take advantage of his British heritage. Of course, it might not be worth anything anyway, as orphans were traditionally scorned.
    4. But again, he doesn't seem to have any interest in taking advantage of them. As the story proceeds, it is only the Red Bull that he's interested in pursuing, and I'm guessing that it's more because of the attraction and mystery of the image more than the hope of escape.
    5. He's very much like good ol' Aladdin.
    10. I agree. That or he's simply ambivalent toward those of other faiths than his own.
    11. Yes, he professes Buddhism, but his discussion with the curator confused me a little (his talk of the Blessed One, or whoever he said, sounded a lot like Islamic rhetoric), plus his rosary. I've since examined "rosary" a bit more, and it's simple a string of prayer beads--no religion ascribed. Catholicism just seems to have the corner on the Christian share of rosaries. Now, yes, I think all that's aside and he is simply Buddhist.
    12. His naivite' annoys me. He's, well, childish/-like, and yet he is the master and Kim is the chela....

    (Welcome back, by the way. I hope you had a productive absence from the attractions and distractions of blogosphere. :) )

  8. Haha thanks, I've been really busy, and also Victor came to visit from Germany. He's gone now, but I would expect that I will not consistently be back until after school, just due to finals/graduation.

  9. I understand the business. Unfortunately (fortunately?) I've got so much spare time at work. Unfortunately (fortunately?) that won't last forever. I expect the blogs will slow down a WHOLE BUNCH once we move to Ohio.


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