Last week I picked up William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury” I had actually been looking forward to reading it as I had heard that it was such a classic. I read, and read and read and almost 50 pages in I still had no idea what the book was about, who the characters were, where they were or what the point was. I later read that his style is called “stream of consciousness” and inspired by James Joyce—oh.
Anyway this sent me into full Nobel rebellion. I decided I was done with the Nobel writers. I felt like I had read many different writers from all of the world and fulfilled my initial goal of reading writers that I would not normally read. So I binged on non-nobel books- Ellena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, and Susan Barkers The Incarnations.
Then from several sources I was sent an article on Svetlana Alexievich (who I still want to read) and then, friends of our invited us to see the moving the Jungle Book and I realized that the Nobels are everywhere!
I had already been thinking that instead of reading plays, watching them would be more interesting, so I have now expanded my Nobel enterprise to sampling the authors in whatever media they present themselves- even if it is a Disney Movie
Rudyard Kipling is apparently the youngest Nobel winner and was awarded the prize in 1907 ;“in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author“.
In my mind both Rudyard Kipling and the Jungle Book (especially as adapted by Disney) seem to harbor a lot of potential controversy, about colonialism and man’s relationship with nature. The movie seemed quite sanitized and in reading about the original story – it has been. It almost seems like a game of broken telephone. The story was written over a hundred years ago but rarely seen in it’s original form- now we have movie interpretation after movie interpretation. Although the characters names are the same, their back stories and motivations, from my limited reading of the original (http://www.literatureproject.com/jungle-book/jungle-book_1.htm ), seem to have been completely lost.
“The Law of the Jungle, which never orders anything without a reason, forbids every beast to eat Man except when he is killing to show his children how to kill, and then he must hunt outside the hunting grounds of his pack or tribe. The real reason for this is that man-killing means, sooner or later, the arrival of white men on elephants, with guns, and hundreds of brown men with gongs and rockets and torches. Then everybody in the jungle suffers. The reason the beasts give among themselves is that Man is the weakest and most defenseless of all living things, and it is unsportsmanlike to touch him. They say too–and it is true –that man-eaters become mangy, and lose their teeth.”
“Keep him!” she gasped. “He came naked, by night, alone and very hungry; yet he was not afraid! Look, he has pushed one of my babes to one side already. And that lame butcher would have killed him and would have run off to the Waingunga while the villagers here hunted through all our lairs in revenge! Keep him? Assuredly I will keep him. Lie still, little frog. O thou Mowgli –for Mowgli the Frog I will call thee–the time will come when thou wilt hunt Shere Khan as he has hunted thee.”
Why has the Jungle Book persisted in our culture as a classic while other stories do not. It is obviously not about Kipling’s writing itself as that is lost in our current interpretations as are even the more detailed threads of the story. Is it just because there are talking animals? I am sure that someone somewhere has written a PhD thesis on this.
As for Kipling himself, he in fact is still an enigma of controversy as this article nicely explains
I am not sure where this project will take be next but I will wait until the next author crosses my path in whatever form that takes