Kipling’s ‘vernacular’
What he knew of it – and what he made of it
in In Time’s eye
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Rudyard Kipling's literary reputation was made by writing about a very different country, India, with what struck his readers as exceptional insider knowledge and artistic inwardness. The 'vernacular' Kipling uses is not only the unseen yeast that leavens his literary bread, it is rather more the very visible and colourful icing on his fictional cake. In Kipling's description, the language that Kim speaks is almost always 'Hindi', while what all the other characters, including the lama, Mahbub Ali, Creighton and Lurgan, speak to him in 'Urdu' or 'Hindustani'. English people have evolved, with the help of Khansamahs and ayahs, an extraordinary jargon, a kind of pidgin-Hindustani, which they imagine is the real article'. Kipling enhanced his comic exploitation of such inadequate Anglo-Hindustani by giving it an ironical narratorial frame. Kipling's far richer and resourceful use of Hindustani in Kim has been textually analysed and theoretically categorised in widely varying ways.

In Time’s eye

Essays on Rudyard Kipling

Editor: Jan Montefiore

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