What We Are Reading Today: If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years by Christopher Benfey

Updated 14 July 2019

What We Are Reading Today: If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years by Christopher Benfey

Christopher Benfey has written a masterful biography of Rudyard Kipling’s years in the US. 

It is a little-remembered period from the life of the youngest ever Nobel Prize winner for literature.

Benfey, the Andrew W. Mellon professor of English at Mount Holyoke, “sets out to return Kipling not to the right side of history but to this side of the Atlantic,” Stacy Schiff said in a review for The New York Times.

“Like Hemingway’s in Havana or Joyce’s in Zurich, Kipling’s American years make for a fertile foreign chapter. They yielded the bulk of his most popular work,” said Schiff.

Benfey “eloquently argues not only that Kipling’s engagement with the US made him the writer he became, but that he lavishly returned the favor,” said the review. Benfey “reminds us of our debt to a category-demolishing, globe-striding man who indeed contained multitudes, the author of an immortal ode to equanimity who fled America because of a sordid brawl with his brother-in-law,” added the review.


Oscar-nominated ‘Brotherhood’ is pure, unadulterated drama

‘Brotherhood’ has been nominated for an Oscar at the 92nd Academy Awards. (Supplied)
Updated 3 min 24 sec ago

Oscar-nominated ‘Brotherhood’ is pure, unadulterated drama

CHENNAI: Movies about family loyalty and rigid moral principles, and the kind of conflict and dilemma they can cause, can be incredibly powerful.

Montreal-based, Tunisian-born Meryam Joobeur’s “Brotherhood” tackles this predicament in her 2018 work, which is in the race for the Oscars this year in the live action short film category. Screened at the Sundance and Toronto film festivals, where it won the Best Canadian Short award, “Brotherhood” has won 60 accolades in 48 countries, which is no small achievement. 

In 25 minutes, Joobeur weaves into her plot a poignant take on a family’s inner turmoil whose consequences can only be tragic. Mohamed lives in pastoral Tunisia with his wife and two sons. They rear sheep and are constantly fighting off wolves. In one early telling scene, we see one of the sheep wounded by a wolf, and Mohamed tells his middle son, who is with him, that the animal shows no mercy. 

 Much later, Mohamed himself turns into a merciless creature. When his eldest estranged son returns from Syria, after having fought alongside Daesh and with a wife in tow, the father is deeply suspicious. He knows his son has not been up to any good in Syria, and the tension between the two is palpable. The family dynamics are like a time-bomb, resulting in complex issues, with the film touching upon the theme of religious radicalism.

Set in an exotic land where the calm hides an impending tragedy, the cinematography is beautiful but restrained. “Brotherhood” is pure drama, and the short film delivers.

Joobeur hopes to convert her work into a feature-length movie. She has a completed script, which will be very different from the short work. Last year’s Oscar-winning short “Skin” managed to persuade people to make a full-length movie from the piece. Joobeur’s may well be next.