Thursday, February 5, 2015

John Batchelor

John Batchelor is Emeritus Professor at the University of Newcastle. He was also previously a Fellow of New College, Oxford. His books include biographies of Joseph Conrad, H. G. Wells, Virginia Woolf, John Ruskin, and Tennyson: To Strive, To Seek, To Find.

Not so long ago I asked Batchelor about what he was reading. His reply:
What do I read? At the moment I read a great deal of Kipling, and a great deal about Kipling. I have recently read and reviewed the astonishing new 3 volume edition of Kipling's complete Poems (some 2000 pages in all) edited by Thomas Pinney, of Pomona University, and published by Cambridge University Press. I am also reading Kipling's prose including his Indian tales and his remarkable novel about the sea, Captains Courageous. I have also just re-read Kipling's Kim which I regard as a supreme masterpiece, a novel as great in its way as Joseph Conrad's near contemporary masterpiece Lord Jim. Both were published at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the moment of historical transition between the Victorian age and the modern world.

Until he wrote Kim Kipling had displayed a racial distance from the Indians among whom he lived - a racial distance all too predictable, and all too understandable, within the context of the British Empire in Queen Victoria's later years. In Kim Kipling enters the skin of an Irish boy who in turn enters the skin of Indian people so completely for much of the narrative we can forget that he is technically 'white'. And the novel celebrates a beautiful, extraordinary relationship between two people of cultures both remote from that of the British reader for whom the text was written: the Irish boy who feels that he is Indian, and the Tibetan Lama who is seeking enlightenment and moral growth. The novel comes down, delicately but decisively, on the side of the Lama's world view rather than that of the British for whom it was written.

In addition I am reading historical studies of 19th century India, especially William Dalrymple's The Last Mughal, an account of the fall of Delhi in the Indian Mutiny of 1857.
Read more about Tennyson: To Strive, To Seek, To Find at the publisher's website.

My Book, The Movie: Tennyson: To Strive, To Seek, To Find.

--Marshal Zeringue