[ilds] Kipling's Kim v. Forster's Passage

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Wed Oct 5 11:34:56 PDT 2016


I don’t disagree that India “meant” a lot to Durrell.  But I think we need to distinguish between the dreamy glow of childhood experiences (à la Wordsworth’s 1799 Prelude) and the deep reflections of a mature man (à la Wordsworth’s “Intimations Ode”).  There’s a reason Durrell never returned to India (or reluctantly returned to Egypt)—I would guess that he didn’t want to disturb or destroy some cherished memories, which, after all, is common to all us.  As Thomas Wolfe says, “You can’t go home again.”  E. M. Forster’s India, in my opinion, is closer to the India of mature Durrell, philosophic Durrell.  When Durrell talked about the India of his childhood, as in his essay “From the Elephant’s Back” (1982), his recollections are full of fabrications.  That India is, in part at least, a Romantic dream.  Take the first lines of “Le circle refermé,” one of Durrell’s last poems:  “Boom of the sunset gun / In the old fortress at Benares.”  That very moving poem, which has the appearance of an autobiographical summation of a life, begins in Benares, India.  If I’m not mistaken, Durrell the child was never in Benares.  He was dreaming that experience, and we all know how important dreams are to Durrell.

Bruce 





> On Oct 5, 2016, at 9:36 AM, Richard Pine <pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> "Yes, Durrell identified with Kipling’s Kim as a model for his boyhood experiences in India.  That’s Romanticism on a superficial level—that’s postcard India."
> Absolutely not! If it was a postcard, it was a postcard born inside his head - a veritable smile in his mind's eye. It wasn't at all romantic, with or without a capital 'R' and it wasn't in the slightest superficial. India MEANT something to him at first-hand and it imbued his entire life and life-vision. Read what he wrote about the lamas in his introduction to the (first) biog of Alexandra David-Neel by the Foster couple.
> RP
> 
> On Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 7:04 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net <mailto:bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>> wrote:
> Yes, Durrell identified with Kipling’s Kim as a model for his boyhood experiences in India.  That’s Romanticism on a superficial level—that’s postcard India.  As Rick points out, Kipling also taught Durrell a lot about storytelling—and both are expert storytellers.  But I would argue that Forster’s Passage to India provided a more profound model for the Indian “metaphysics” Durrell later explored in his allegorical fiction.  (Forster’s Alexandria and Pharos and Pharillon also fit in here.)  This is the India Ravi Nambiar discusses.  Consider Forster’s opening to Passage—the Marabar Caves and whatever it is that happens inside them.  Durrell uses caves to similar effect in The Dark Labyrinth and the Quintet.  Those kinds of mysterious or mystical experiences permeate his work.  
> 
> Bruce
> 
> 
> 
>> On Oct 4, 2016, at 11:03 PM, Richard Pine <pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com <mailto:pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com>> wrote:
>> 
>> I think what continued to resonate with LD about "Kim" was the fact that like Kipling LD had been born there and as we know deeply resented 'losing' his Indian childhood; that Kim was, as LD supposed himself to be, Anglo-Irish; and that he had known something of Kim's early years - Walsh in Pied Piper of Lovers has a lot in common with Kim. On the other hand, Forster was a 'travel writer' in India and however much he empathised with Indians, he didn't have that background. See what LD says about Kim, quoted in my book "Mindscape" (readable online on the DLC website - pp. 43-46 and 123-126 especially).
>> RP
>> 
>> On Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 1:29 AM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net <mailto:bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>> wrote:
>> Richard, you’ve mentioned Kipling’s Kim before in this context.  I’ll have to reread it in the way you suggest.  I must have missed something, but I can imagine what Said probably said.  I wonder why Durrell didn’t keep Forster’s Passage to India as a “bedside book.”  It seems equally relevant.  Forster, by the way, didn’t like Durrell and his brand of Romanticism and didn’t say nice things about him in private.  Durrell, on the other hand, was very gracious towards E. M.
>> 
>> Bruce
> 
> 
>> 
>> Rick Schoff on 10/5/2016:
> 
> I'm reading "Kim" for the first time as an adult. It's not hard to see the east/west contrast. I imagine LD loved the boisterous and colorful aspects of it (is this part and parcel of the "romanticism" Forster didn't like?). Also, I think, the idea of a "Great Game" as the armature and animator of a story impressed Durrell. I first read the Quartet for its overall lushness and the interactions and thoughts of the characters. But "Palestine" ruled over all the action, gave shape and defined the parameters of the story. In the Quintet it's the Templars and their rumored treasure. In addition to other aspects, I think "Kim" taught Durrell some key lessons about pure story-telling. Sure, "Kim" might be just a boy's adventure book (how it was first presented to me), but both elements are in there: good story-telling and depiction of different world views.
> 
> 
> On Oct 4, 2016, at 6:29 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net <mailto:bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>> wrote:
> 
>> Richard, you’ve mentioned Kipling’s Kim before in this context.  I’ll have to reread it in the way you suggest.  I must have missed something, but I can imagine what Said probably said.  I wonder why Durrell didn’t keep Forster’s Passage to India as a “bedside book.”  It seems equally relevant.  Forster, by the way, didn’t like Durrell and his brand of Romanticism and didn’t say nice things about him in private.  Durrell, on the other hand, was very gracious towards E. M.
>> 
>> Bruce
>> 
>> 
>> 
>>> On Oct 4, 2016, at 2:29 PM, Richard Pine <pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com <mailto:pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com>> wrote:
>>> 
>>> To appreciate the east-west tension in LD - and particularly the Quintet - it's helpful to look at Kipling's Kim - which LD called his 'bedside book' - and to look also at the ways western critics have tried to engage with this tension - and then to look at the ways non-western critics like Said and Chaudhuri have read Kim.
>>> RP
>>> 
>>> On Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 12:19 AM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net <mailto:bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>> wrote:
>>> Ravi,
>>> 
>>> I like the contrast between Durrell’s Constance and Tennyson’s “Ulysses”:  to yield v. not to yield.  I think you’re absolutely right in this.  That’s the Indian metaphysics of Durrell’s philosophy, which is very un-Western.  As to the rest of the Quintet, it has so many aspects (and defects) that readers will be puzzling over these for years to come.  I don’t think, however, that Durrell himself was ever “happy.”  In this regard, he was Odyssean, “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”  What he advocated was not necessarily what he practiced.
>>> 
>>> Bruce
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>>>> On Sep 28, 2016, at 8:14 PM, Ravi Nambiar <cnncravi at gmail.com <mailto:cnncravi at gmail.com>> wrote:
>>>> 
>>>> Bruce
>>>> Thanks for your expert comments. You are hundred percent right. The Quintet may/will get the fate of The Revolt. I don't speak authoritatively at all. I am a humble admirer of Durrell. I just quoted Durrell's own words (so that I can escape) only to show that he had not anticipated a Quartet-type audience for his Quintet ("The book is really written for learned people."); and, in spite of that, he claimed this novel his best. My only contention is that it is too early to write off this novel as a failure. Also, there are some fine parts which our young scholars could/should pursue. Our negative (final) judgement should not, I feel, discourage anyone from going into its by-lanes. For example, I liked the contrast Durrell made to the concept of Victorian heroism with a/the modern heroism: replacing the slogan, "to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield" with the slogan, "to surrender, to yield, to abdicate and receive" (Constance 269). I don't think substituting the  heroism of Ulysses with that of a Yogi is any kind of philosophy or a bad philosophy. Yoga is popular now. Durrell's concern was to make his character seek happiness, inner happiness, a kind of"bliss-side up" life (the first half of the novel was the war-ridden world). That is why I called his novel "Eudaemonistic" novel, the type of novel making its theme as a system of ethics that evaluates actions (heroism) in terms of their capacity to produce happiness. The Quintet may be a failure, but, it certainly gives some narrative clues to future writers. We have had enough of realism, surrealism, magic realism, and so on. Why not try metarealism also?
>>>> My apology to all those who disagree with me. Let us agree to disagree for the sake of literature.
>>>> Best
>>>> Ravi
>>>> 
>> 
>> _______________________________________________
>> 
>> 
>>> On Oct 4, 2016, at 2:29 PM, Richard Pine <pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com <mailto:pinedurrellcorfu at gmail.com>> wrote:
>>> 
>>> To appreciate the east-west tension in LD - and particularly the Quintet - it's helpful to look at Kipling's Kim - which LD called his 'bedside book' - and to look also at the ways western critics have tried to engage with this tension - and then to look at the ways non-western critics like Said and Chaudhuri have read Kim.
>>> RP
>>> 
>>> On Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 12:19 AM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net <mailto:bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>> wrote:
>>> Ravi,
>>> 
>>> I like the contrast between Durrell’s Constance and Tennyson’s “Ulysses”:  to yield v. not to yield.  I think you’re absolutely right in this.  That’s the Indian metaphysics of Durrell’s philosophy, which is very un-Western.  As to the rest of the Quintet, it has so many aspects (and defects) that readers will be puzzling over these for years to come.  I don’t think, however, that Durrell himself was ever “happy.”  In this regard, he was Odyssean, “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”  What he advocated was not necessarily what he practiced.
>>> 
>>> Bruce
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>>>> On Sep 28, 2016, at 8:14 PM, Ravi Nambiar <cnncravi at gmail.com <mailto:cnncravi at gmail.com>> wrote:
>>>> 
>>>> Bruce
>>>> Thanks for your expert comments. You are hundred percent right. The Quintet may/will get the fate of The Revolt. I don't speak authoritatively at all. I am a humble admirer of Durrell. I just quoted Durrell's own words (so that I can escape) only to show that he had not anticipated a Quartet-type audience for his Quintet ("The book is really written for learned people."); and, in spite of that, he claimed this novel his best. My only contention is that it is too early to write off this novel as a failure. Also, there are some fine parts which our young scholars could/should pursue. Our negative (final) judgement should not, I feel, discourage anyone from going into its by-lanes. For example, I liked the contrast Durrell made to the concept of Victorian heroism with a/the modern heroism: replacing the slogan, "to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield" with the slogan, "to surrender, to yield, to abdicate and receive" (Constance 269). I don't think substituting the  heroism of Ulysses with that of a Yogi is any kind of philosophy or a bad philosophy. Yoga is popular now. Durrell's concern was to make his character seek happiness, inner happiness, a kind of"bliss-side up" life (the first half of the novel was the war-ridden world). That is why I called his novel "Eudaemonistic" novel, the type of novel making its theme as a system of ethics that evaluates actions (heroism) in terms of their capacity to produce happiness. The Quintet may be a failure, but, it certainly gives some narrative clues to future writers. We have had enough of realism, surrealism, magic realism, and so on. Why not try metarealism also?
>>>> My apology to all those who disagree with me. Let us agree to disagree for the sake of literature.
>>>> Best
>>>> Ravi
>>>> 
>> 
> 
> 
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