Set in the days of the British Raj, Kipling's finest novel is the exciting and touching tale of an Irish orphan-boy who has lived free in the streets of Lahore before setting out, with a Tibetan Lama, on a spiritual quest. Kim later enrolls in the Indian Service and simultaneously embarks on an espionage mission of supreme importance. A thrilling climax in the Himalayas occurs when the two quests become entangled. Kim's search for identity is staged within one of the most magnificent and affectionate portrayals of Indian culture in literature.
Public Domain ©2009 Naxos Audiobooks; (P)2009 Naxos Audiobooks
After hearing the sample, I bought this performance of Kim by Madhav Sharma, even though I already had another very fine recording. I immediately listened to it, enthralled, every available minute. Sharma masterfully uses vocal timbre, inflection, pacing, and a whole palette of accents to bring Kipling's characters into vivid focus. He's subtle, not heavy-handed, making character voices all distinct, nuanced, and convincing, so the action and tensions in the story become very clear. I've loved this book since childhood, but it's never seemed as real as Sharma makes it. I'll listen to this repeatedly.
This is a wonderful book, overflowing with the author's love for the variety and richness of India.
Much has been made of the richness of Jim Dale's narration of the Harry Potter stories, but he has nothing on the performance of Madhav Sharma. His range of different characterizations, all unique, ranging from the gutter accents of Lahore, England and Ireland, to the most polished, are delivered to perfection.
Sharma's is a performance to be savored.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
"What is Kim?" asks the title character of Rudyard Kipling's classic novel (1901) more than once. Kim is a poor orphan boy whose Irish parents have died in India, leaving him basically on his own in the city of Lahore, where he has been doing "nothing with an immense success," other than avoiding British authority figures who would send him to an orphanage or, worse, to a school, as well as engaging in nighttime intrigue by carrying messages between dandies and their mistresses and hanging out with a varied host of uncommon common people, becoming known as Little Friend of all the World. He speaks English brokenly as a second language but is fluent in vernacular Hindi and Urdu, expressing himself in them with a spicy street poetry, and he can pass for an indigenous Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist. So fluidly swims Kim in his environment that not many people know that he's really a sahib (white master) whose full name is Kimball O'Hara.
As the novel opens, Kim is playing King of the Canon when an exotic old lama appears before him, down from his Tibetan monastery and bewildered by the big city. The "gentle and untainted" holy man, who is not proof from, to his shame, becoming "a brawler and a swashbuckler" when pushed off the Middle Way, wants to "free himself from the Wheel of Things," and hence is questing through the plains of India for the legendary river that sprung from the earth at the spot where Buddha shot an arrow, for bathing in the River of the Arrow will cleanse him of all dirt and sin and facilitate transcendence. Kim takes the lama under his wing, quickly becoming his "chela" (begging-acolyte), permitting charitable people to "acquire merit" by giving food, showing him how to ride a "te-rain" (train), protecting him from rapacious, opium plying priests, and generally being a vital street- and people-smart support. But Kim is also attracted to a red-bearded, horse-trading Muslim Afghan called Mahbub Ali who just happens to be a player in the Great Game, the late 19th century cold war being waged by Great Britain against Russia via proxy spies in India and environs. Mahbub Ali hires Kim to deliver a top secret coded message to a British ethnologist Colonel near where the holy man and his chela are bound.
The picaresque and philosophical buildingsroman follows Kim on his travels throughout India, "This great and beautiful land," visiting various cities and villages, meeting colorful people like an old ex-soldier who saw action in the Great Mutiny and a feisty grandmother with still "a wag left to [her] tongue," all the while growing ever closer to the holy man and the horse trader, learning more about spiritual matters and spy matters, and maturing into a complex youth of many parts: plucky spy on a mission, earnest acolyte on a pilgrimage, and Friend of all the World. Throughout, Kim's relationship with the lama is funny, touching, and fulfilling. The holy man says things to the boy like, "I consider in my own mind whether thou art a spirit sometimes or sometimes an evil imp," "Do not weep; for, look you, all Desire is Illusion and a new binding on the Wheel," and "Never has there been such a chela as thou."
Kipling's evocation of 19th century India is vivid and fascinating. It ranges from cities bustling with pickpockets, courtesans, policemen, witches, and vegetable and curry sellers to plains smoky with heat and dust and mountains bracing with snow-waters and musky pines, all via roads and trains peopled with "Brahmins and chumars, bankers and tinkers, barbers and bunnias, pilgrims and potters—all the world going and coming." He laces his narrative with moments of beauty: "Golden, rose, saffron, and pink, the morning mists smoked away across the flat green levels. All the rich Punjab lay out in the splendour of the keen sun." And he sprinkles it with interesting cultural touches: “A churel is the peculiarly malignant ghost of a woman who has died in child-bed. She haunts lonely roads, her feet are turned backwards on the ankles, and she leads men to torment.” And the novel sparkles with quotable lines, ranging from pearls of wisdom to spicy insults:
"To abstain from action is well, except to acquire merit."
"It's an awful thing still to dread the magic that you contemptuously investigate."
"The faiths are like the horses. Each has merit in its own country."
"Only the devils and the English walk to and fro without reason."
"Thy mother was devoted to a devil, being led thereto by her mother."
"Never make friends with a devil, a monkey, or a boy."
Madhav Sharma reads Kim with wit, clarity, and dexterity, enthusiastically channeling children and adults, men and women, Indians and English, in a variety of moods, accents, and situations and providing an enthralling listening experience.
I perhaps would not have enjoyed Kim as a boy, because I'd have wanted more typical adventure action and would not have understood the philosophical ideas about life and spiritual matters. But as an adult I found it irresistible from start to finish: funny, moving, thought-provoking, and absorbing. If you have avoided Kipling the Imperial White Man's Burden Racist Apologist, read this novel and you will find a different author and a different world than you expected. Kipling's respect for and interest in different religions, especially Buddhist, illuminates the book. And Kim is a white boy only on the surface, for his love for the land and his father figures and theirs for him transcend race. As his holy man says to Kim, "We be but two souls seeking escape." As Kim says to his holy man, "I am not a sahib. I am thy chela."
I am an avid eclectic reader.
I had not read Kim before but I remembered watching the movie back in 1950. Kipling was a master of the short story but as he progressed as a writer he wrote longer books. Kipling wrote Kim in 1901 and he received the Nobel Prize in literature in 1907. He was the first English language writer to receive the prize and the youngest at that time. Kipling was born in Bombay and his love of India comes through in all his writing be it children or adult literature. Kim is a young orphan, his father was in the British Army, after his father's death he "went native" as the saying goes. He meets a Tibetan Lama and became his helper as the Lama wandered the country seeking the river of the arrow. How he ended up in a school and also being trained as a spy for the British you must read the book to find out. Madhav Sharma did a fantastic job narrating the book. This book may have been written in1901 but it prose and story still ring with the reader. Great writers stand the proof of time.
Lovely, dramatic narration with a great range of voices and accents for the many characters. I decided to read this classic after reading Laurie R. King's "The Game" where she uses the character of Kim a couple of decades on. I'm a fan of classics and was curious about the background. The novel was not at all what I was expecting: I thought it focused more on the spy elements of Kim's participation in the Great Game, but this aspect is more background to a charming coming-of-age story and the development of a deep and unexpected relationship with the lama. A great story!
Sharma does a wonderful job in expressing Kipling's love of India as well as his prejudices. Well worth the listening.
great spy story
no other book. but there's a reference to it in frederick forsyth's "day of the jackal". which is a pretty good "spy" novel, too.
the first 30 pages
BE THE TAG LINE BE???
well, i wouldn't. it would be a pretty insufferable movie, with some horrible juvenile actor, and a lot of fake indian accents. the tag line would need to be "they finally ruined a classic".
this is a novel that most readers won't be able to get into simply by reading it, because it deals with a world that would be alien to a modern reader, incomprehensible. it needs a good reader to give the story a decent airing -- an audio version -- to bring out all the wonderful things that are inside it. this particular reading comes pretty close to being that perfect rendition. if you read the book yourself, the printed version, you'll spend four days in reader's heaven. whereas listening to it, you'll need to pay attention more -- it may take an hour at a time, over a couple of weeks, but once you've got your head around the whole book the first time, you'll be wanting to read it and listen to it again and again, or once every other year. that sort of thing. this is one of those books.
. . . But well worth it. First off, this is the narrator to listen to! I sampled all the narrators available, some being masters that I am well acquainted with, but none came close to Madhav Sharma. This is a performance to savor as he masterfully molds the story of "Kim" into everything Kipling set out to make of it.
I sophomorically kept waiting for the big conflict, the big rift, the big disaster to really draw me into this book. About half way through, I realized none would come because this is a story about relationships, contrasts and coming of age. It is about trust and mistrust, love and loss, devotion and betrayal. It is not a story to speed through, but to be savored and thought about. I found myself listening and then relistening to many chapters, as I read along in the ebook (easily attainable for free). I could never have enjoyed just reading this book, in large part because of the strange names which I could never understand nor pronounce correctly, and also because of my total ignorance of the native inflections that Mr. Sharma so masterfully performed, and which gives so much meaning to the story. On the other hand, I could never have just listened to it because many of the words, being unfamiliar to me, could never have made sense to me no matter how well pronounced without my seeing them and in many cases, looking them up. Following along with the written word was the best of both worlds for me, and really helped with my understanding of the book.
Beautifully written with a beautiful moral, no wonder it is a classic. I don't usually reread fiction, but I will probably read this one again.
Kim is incomparable; it stands alone. (An interesting piece of trivia: Kim Philby was named after him.) But one thing that struck me while listening this time (I've read it several times) is that Kipling's strength in his books about India was the ability of a great newspaper reporter. He stands outside the action and records it without personal commentary. I think this is why he sometimes has been labeled racist--because he recorded India exactly as he saw it, and the British of the time were frequently racist, so there are scenes showing blatant disrespect for the "black man."
There is one scene where an Indian-born Englishman--who is clearly bilingual in English and Urdu (or is it Hindi?)--trades colloquial, good-humored insults with a cranky old grandmother who is in fact the wife of one of the small hill rajahs. She loves a good battle of words, but what really wins her heart is the clearly over-the-top praise of her beauty. "O, pearl of perfection, etc." She laughs, but you can hear the wistfulness when she says, "Once upon a time, maybe, that was true." (These are not exact quotations; my memory is not that good).
Heavens, no! I think it's 14 hours long. Over 10, anyway. But when I was listening I was immersed in India and the story. And when it was over, I wished that it had been longer.
Madhav Sharma brings Raj India in all its variety to life. There are almost no women characters (the old grandmother is the notable exception) but he does teenage Kim's voice beautifully, as well as the lama, Mahbub Ali the Afghan horsetrader/spy, and Huri Babu, the self-described "fearful," and certainly fat, Bengali whose feats in espionage actually are more like James Bond's. Well, Mahbub is probably James Bond, since they're both incredibly fond of guns. But "no hurry for Huri" is still my favorite.
"Great narration, great story"
Kim is a great story and always worth reading. That Kipling loved India is very clear from this story.
The narrator is perfect for the story and gives a little 'Indian' touch to the speech of the Indian characters.
A great story, beautifully read - really captures the atmosphere of India at that time (from a contemporary Englishman's view of course). I have listened to it several times and will listen again.
"A Classic beautifully told"
This story is one of my favourite all time classics and over the years I have collected many versions of it's reading. Of all the versions I have this is by far the best. The pace is perfect, this is a book to savour not rushed and you can certainly do that with this reading. It's not slow but it doesn't race through the tale and cause you to miss the detail.
Madhav Sharma created a full cast with beautifully defined, individual voices for each character. Exactly what you would expect from a quality reading. Bravo!
Basically, if you want to invest the time and listen to a wonderful tale while you savour the magnificent turn of phrase of Kipling then go for this version. I like it so much I have recently retired my original CD version that I've been listening to for years and upgraded to an Audible copy. (the space saving is HUGE!)
If you go for it I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
"Perfect performance for the book."
Madhav Sharma's rendering is perfect for this classic. The narrator's skill enhances my enjoyment of the book tremendously. I wish Audible would provide a British version of Stalky and Co, another favorite of mine...
"Did not enjoy it"
I don't like writing a bad review but I just did not enjoy this book at all. I could not connect with the Narrator in any way. Coming from an Indian background, I just could not see how Indians could talk the way his characters were. After about 3-4 hours I gave up. The first Audiobook that I stopped mid way (I have over 40 books). Would not recommend this book.
"The Indian grail quest."
In the mountains, when he rejects the woman's advances and also his Western root.
On the train when Kim disguises the agent on the run and fools the railway police, and his fellow passengers
The finale where the lama gives up his own enlightenment in order to return and help Kim to find his.
The reading added a dimension of gentle understanding which moved and awed me. Truly a one man theatre.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.