Monday, September 05, 2005

Exceedingly Good

I read an enjoyable piece by Oliver Kamm in The Times over the weekend in which - in the course of putting the boot into several varieties of gobbledygook and moddish pieties - he refers to a story by Rudyard Kipling.

Rudyard Kipling is an unfashionable writer, but he had prophetic gifts greater than any spirit medium. His short story The Village that Voted the Earth was Flat concerns a group of motorists caught in a speed trap (it was written in 1913!), who exact revenge on the local magistrate who also sits as their MP. They set up a bogus 'Geoplanarian Society' to embarrass the man. It promptly votes, in the name of the village, to declare that the Earth is flat. The ensuing national ridicule is compounded when the genuine Flat Earth Society turns up to celebrate its 'dear friends and sympathisers'.

I've dug up a link to the story and popped it into the quote above although I haven't read it yet.

I love all the Kipling that I have read and I remain baffled quite frankly by his reputation as the embodiment of uncritical jingoism and prejudice.

I read his great novel Kim not long ago and my abiding impression was of the author's love and admiration for - and deep knowledge of - India and its peoples. In the course of a cracking adventure yarn, we are introduced to a dazzling array of warm, generous and tolerant characters. Indeed, as I read it I could almost imagine that it might have been written with the didactic purpose of explaining the different cultures represented to each other.

Do you remember the story I found about the script of Casablanca back in June? How when in the 1980s, this film's script was sent to readers at a number of major studios and production companies under its original title, "Everybody Comes To Rick's", some readers recognized the script but most did not. and many complained that the script was "not good enough" to make a decent movie.

Now that its out of copyright, I'm almost tempted to download the text of Kim from Project Gutenberg and submit it to publishers claiming that it is a new historical novel that I have written as a paean to multicuturalism with Mahbub Ali as the Muslim exemplar, Hurree Babu as the Hindu, and Teshoo - the Tibetan lama - as the Buddhist.

I wonder what sort of reaction I'd get.

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