Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling

Source: Librivox (zipped mp3s)
Length: 1 hr, 30 min
Reader: Phillipa

The story: In British-ruled India, the narrator, a correspondent for a colonial newspaper, meets a pair of con-men while riding on the train. Several months later, the two con-men show up at the newspaper office with a wild scheme. They plan to sneak into the border region of Afghanistan with 20 Martini rifles, raise small army of natives, and become kings of the region.

This story enjoyed great admiration when it was first published in the 1890's, but now it is difficult to read without recognizing the racist and colonialist overtones. The view of non-Europeans as so simple as to be swayed by a few Masonic rites and the authority of a white man is a bit difficult to buy. However, these are professional con artists and well-educated Europeans have been taken in by less. What really struck me was the colonialist goal of the story and how it compares to modern news. That one could, with modern weaponry and tactical know-how, train a local army to take over the Afghan mountains seems to be a persistent idea. In fact, I could see this story being adapted to modern times, with only a few adjustments.

Rating: 7/10

The reader: Phillipa has a beautiful British accent. She reads with a steady pacing, slow enough to take in the words easily, though some people may wish for a faster read. Her dialect for the two con-artists' voices adds character to the recording, though at first I found it hard to understand. The recording is as crisp and clear as one could ask for.


Felbrigg said...

This short little book is my absolute fave from Librivox. I found the reader excellent and the presentation really hooked me. I was actually reduced to tears while listening. The accents didn't cause me a problem, due to my being British I guess. I heartily rec' this book!

mel u said...

I just read this story yesterday-It is well written and interesting and for sure very racist -I enjoyed your post a lot and linked back to your review