The Man Who Would Be King: and Other Stories


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The Man Who Would Be King

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Above all, he locates the causes of imperialism, and of how that imperialism runs it course on the ground, in the psychology of the individual invader as the ultimate self-made man. For all that the British system attempts to eliminate the individual, reducing each man to a surname, rank, and posting, turning barbaric, prejudiced, semi-animalistic humans like the Rajah of Degumber and can I tie in here the earlier discussion of high-school fashion police?

Referring to somebody by their first name? Eating babies? Even the great men who expand the bounds of the Empire are doing it only for their own reasons — and they are not always good reasons. Nor, of course, are they necessarily bad reasons. Dravot and Carnehan and indeed the narrator are, like many Kipling characters, not easily pigeonholed into moralistic categories.

In some stories, that would be good — in longer stories perhaps, where sentiments can develop more fully and leave the reader conflicted — but here I just felt detached.

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Which brings me to the other side of the matter. A lot of this is the fault of the structure. As I said above, this is a ghost story, so there is a great deal of attention paid to provenance. As a result a good third or more of the story has passed by, explaining to us the details of who the narrator is and how they came by this story, before we actually come to the events themselves.

This first part of the story is actually the best written by far. Yet none of this does much to advance the plot. But then we get the real story, and here I think the changes in the nature of narrative are painfully clear. Because think how this would work these days. A man tells the narrator a story — and we go inside his eyes, as it were.


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Instead, we get more or less what that sub-narrator would actually say. Which means that details are skipped over en masse, events are told in overly dry and matter-of-fact ways, and both the imagery and the emotive impact are far less than they could be.

On the one hand, I do appreciate what Kipling is doing. But whatever the reason, and however much I may understand and sympathise with the stylistic decision, I still find it problematic as a way of telling a story. This, of course, says as much about me as about Kipling: grown used to modern authorial spoonfeeding, I find myself frustrated by a story with such potential that seems not to explore it fully.

Perhaps this is a good time to point out that the film , written and directed by John Huston, starring Michael Caine and Sean Connery, scored by Maurice Jarre, cinematography by Oswald Morris, nominated for 4 Oscars, and those names alone add up to 8 Oscars and 21 nominations… is really, really good; which is easy to believe as you read the story, because this is a brilliant story to adapt for film. Because really, all these stories are about child abuse.

The Man Who Would Be King & Other Stories

A fine preparation for an adult life in the civil service or the army, where he will again have no name are not outright evil people, are not really condemned at all, but are… well, my spine creeps at the thought of them. Beyond lay the empire of his father and mother — two very terrible people who had no time to waste upon His Majesty the King. His voice was lowered when he passed the frontier of his own dominions, his actions were fettered, and his soul was filled with awe because of the grim man who lived among a wilderness of pigeon-holes and the most fascinating pieces of red tape, and the wonderful woman who was always getting into or stepping out of the big carriage.

The Man Who Would Be King: and Other Stories The Man Who Would Be King: and Other Stories
The Man Who Would Be King: and Other Stories The Man Who Would Be King: and Other Stories
The Man Who Would Be King: and Other Stories The Man Who Would Be King: and Other Stories
The Man Who Would Be King: and Other Stories The Man Who Would Be King: and Other Stories
The Man Who Would Be King: and Other Stories The Man Who Would Be King: and Other Stories
The Man Who Would Be King: and Other Stories The Man Who Would Be King: and Other Stories
The Man Who Would Be King: and Other Stories The Man Who Would Be King: and Other Stories
The Man Who Would Be King: and Other Stories The Man Who Would Be King: and Other Stories

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