The title “Hustle the East”

The title Hustle the East for a new novel about Southeast Asia comes from a poem by Rudyard Kipling.

Born in Bombay in 1865, Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an immensely popular author and chronicler of the British Empire. In the West he is best known for his tales of the East including Jungle Book, Just So Stories and Kim, and his poems “Gunga Din” and “The White Man’s Burden.” Though his fellow English essayist George Orwell condemned Kipling as a morally insensitive, jingoistic imperialist, children around the world were enthralled by his stories and Nobel Prize judges awarded him the Prize for Literature in 1907. His collected works were published under the title The White Man’s Poet.

For English writers of Kipling’s generation “the East” often meant India, but it could mean anywhere East of Suez, including the Persian Gulf, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Far East. While Kipling lived for years in India and what is now Pakistan, he traveled to Rangoon, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. He also traveled extensively in the United States, and in 1891, he married an American woman and settled with her in Brattleboro, Vermont.  It was there, with snow piled up against the window, that Kipling conceived the stories of Mowgli and his jungle chums. Kipling once showed up uninvited at fellow tale-spinner Mark Twain’s door in Elmira, New York, and the two literary lions had a roaring good time together.

The phrase “hustle the East” occurs in Kipling’s poem “Naulahka,” which describes social interaction in Rajpur, India.

Kipling wrote:

“Now it is not good for the Christian’s health to hustle the Aryan brown                          For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles and he weareth the Christian down          And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased          And the epitaph drear: “A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East.”

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