vendredi 3 septembre 2010

Rudyard Kipling (Part 2) [English]

Le présent billet a été rédigé par Jonathan Goldberg, que je remercie. Une traduction en français sera publiée très prochainement.


As was mentioned in Part 1 of this article on Rudyard Kipling, he was a prolific British writer: he wrote poetry and prose, fiction and non-fiction, and works intended to be read both by adults and children.

From a tender age, the young Kipling studied French. His father made him read Jules Verne, to improve his command of French. His first trip to France was in 1878, when father and son visited the World’s Fair in Paris. Kipling senior was responsible for the Indian Exhibit. Kipling Junior, then 13 years of age, strolled the streets of Paris and went looking for Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo. At the Fair, the boy was impressed by a painting showing the death of Manon Lescaut,


He read the works of Abbé Prévost, which would later inspire his novel, The Light that Failed, published in 1890. A film of that same name was made in 1939.


With the invention of the automobile, he visited France regularly. In his own words:

“But in all those years I knew little of France beyond an occasional trip to Paris. The coming of the automobile broke the spell, and, year after year, in the cars of the period when motorists were as much pioneers of travel as are now airmen, we explored France. (“But, Monsieur, we cannot accommodate that here. It will frighten the horses!” That was at the old hotel in Avignon.)

Then was revealed to us, season after season, the immense and amazing beauty of France; the laborious thrift of her people, and a little of their hard philosophy; the excellence of her agriculture and the forethought and system of her forestry.”

Kipling ends his description of the times he spent in France with the words: “And these are some of the reasons why I love France.”

In 1918-1919, after his son had been killed in the First World War, he became a member of the British Commission in charge of war cemeteries in France.

All this is recounted in Kipling’s Souvenirs of France, which has been published in French by Grasset & Fasquelle. Kipling also wrote France at War on the Frontier of Civilisation. The full text is accessible at http://www.fullbooks.com/France-At-War.html. A French translation was published in France by Berger-Levrault in 1916.

Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. He was the first English-language writer to win it. When the award was made, praise was bestowed on Kipling’s works and on English literature in general:


“The Swedish Academy, in awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature this year to Rudyard Kipling, desires to pay a tribute of homage to the literature of England, so rich in manifold glories, and to the greatest genius in the realm of narrative that that country has produced in our times.”

For the entire award speech, see http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1907/press.html


Kipling, aged 60, in 1926

Various writers were very strongly influenced by the works of Kipling. T. S. Eliot, a very different poet from Kipling, edited A Choice of Kipling's Verse (1943), and commented that Kipling could write great poetry on occasions—“even if only by accident." Kipling's stories for adults also remain in print and have been highly praised by writers as varied as Poul Anderson, Jorge Luis Borges, and George Orwell. His children's stories remain popular; and his Jungle Books have been made into several movies by the Walt Disney Company. A number of his poems were set to music by Percy Grainger. A series of short films based on some of his stories was broadcast by the BBC in 1964. His poem If was voted Britain’s Favourite Poem in 1995.

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