As one of the Thirty Books I wanted to read before I reach the dreaded milestone of 30 years of age, you can guess that Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King was something I was dying to get my teeth into. And you’d be right. The Story itself originally published in 1888 is both a scathing look at colonialist tendency and also a rich satire mocking the English sense of entitlement regarding foreign land, and also pokes fun at the notion that Freemasons actually run the world.
The story centres around two soldiers of fortune turned con men who decide that life in India is not working out for them, and after failing in a scheme to blackmail a local Rajah decide to set themselves up as kings in the backwater nation of Kafiristan (northern Afghanistan) after swearing off women and liquor, they set off with a bunch of guns and manage to unite all the warring tribes of the region together through knowledge of Freemasonry,then acting as gods they rule the country benevolently until they are are brought low.
Kipling, in a short space of words, manages to set the scene of the British Raj and the inhospitable climes of Afghanistan, and offers up a fair summation of the contemporary political climate of warfare that was rampant in the Afghan provinces of the time (much like today) and also captures perfectly the attitude of the common Englishman of the time, that the world was theirs for the taking and damn anyone who got in the way. Its also a work about friendship and the perils that blind devotion to ones friends can bring. Spolier warning I did cry at the end, which is odd because having seen the classic film adaptation featuring Michael Cane and Sean Connery I knew how the book was going to end, and it says a lot about Kipling’s writing that it brought a tear to my eye.
Look out for more reviews from my Thirty Before 30 coming soon