Kim - the 34th best novel in another stupid list


Lists of the best novels are preposterous. No one of intellect respects them but categorising and enumerating is natural to us. But they're interesting so they're part of the media landscape, if not the literary landscape.

The Guardian have a spin on the formula: instead of one big list and there you go, debate that, it's a slowly revealed list, each entry unveiled at the pace of novels instead of the newscycle. Each is accompanied by a brief discussion of the book. Kim is number 34.

Robert McCrum's summary of Kim emphasises the meeting of east and west, of Kim's struggle with his identity. Unfortunately it concludes he's Indian, the Lama's chela, based on a single quote: "I am not a sahib, I am a chela." Over the course of the novel Kim says "I am not a sahib" twice, but he says "I am a sahib" five times. The true nature of his identity is not nearly as clear as McCrum makes out. So poor evidence, but I think I agree: Kim's loyalties do lie in India.