One of the great adventure books of all time, Kim, first published in 1901, is Kipling's last major work about India, a farewell look brimming with all the color and sound, squalor and splendor of that exotic land. Kim, the orphaned son of an Irish soldier, is a mischievous worldly imp growing up in the walled city of Lahore. A secret mission for the British and a heartfelt bond with a Tibetan lama in search of a sacred river soon lead Kim into a life of spies and secrets, danger and high excitement. But Kim is more than a boy's adventure. Written by the laureate of the British Empire, it is also a profound look at the differences between East and West. For the first time, a British writer understood India in all its complexity, mystery, and spirituality. Here we enter the harems; mingle with thieves, jugglers, and beggars; and experience all that is India in one of literature's most magical and moving masterpieces.
Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, India to British parents on December 30, 1865. In 1871, Rudyard and his sister, Trix, aged three, were left to be cared for by a couple in Southsea, England. Five years passed before he saw his parents again. His sense of desertion and despair were later expressed in his story "Baa Baa, Black Sheep" (1888), in his novel The Light that failed (1890), and his autobiography, Something of Myself (1937). As late as 1935 Kipling still spoke bitterly of the "House of Desolation" at Southsea: "I should like to burn it down and plough the place with salt." At twelve he entered a minor public school, the United Services College at Westward Ho, North Devon. In Stalky and CO. (1899) the myopic Beetle is a self-caricature, and the days at Westward Ho are recalled with mixed feelings. At sixteen, eccentric and literary, Kipling sailed to India to become a journalist. His Indian experiences led to seven volumes of stories, including Soldiers Three (1888) and Wee Willie Winkie (1888).
At twenty-four he returned to England and quickly tuned into a literary celebrity. In London he became close friends with an American, (Charles) Wolcott Balestier, with whom he collaborated on what critics called a "dime store novel." Wolcott died suddenly in 1891, and a few weeks later Kipling married Wolcott's sister, Caroline. The newlyweds settled in Brattleboro, Vermont, where Kipling wrote The Jungle Book (1895), and most of Captains Courageous (1897). By this time Kipling's popularity and financial success were enormous.
In 1899 the Kipling's settled in Sussex, England, where he wrote some of his best books: Kim (1901), Just So Stories (1902), and Puck of Pooks Hill (1906). In 1907 he received the Nobel Prize for literature. By the time he died, on January 18 1936, critical opinion was deeply divided about his writings, but his books continued to be read by thousands, and such unforgettable poems and stories as "Gunga Din," "If," "The Man Who Would Be King," and "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" have lived on in the consciousness of succeeding generations.