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inkwellThe Finest Story in the World has to be one of my favourite Kipling stories. It certainly was one of the first I read, many years ago, in a more than decent Italian translation, back when I still believed Kipling was just the man of the Jungle Books and Kim. Let us say that this particular short story, taken from Many Inventions, was a relevant step towards discovery.

The Finest Story in the World tells the tale of Charlie Mears, a young City clerk with literary aspirations and terrible taste, who stumbles across the writer narrator – a not even thinly disguised Kipling – and adopts him as a mentor. The writer is indulgently amused at first by the boy’s hero-worship and utter cluelessness – but quickly discovers that, when he is not preoccupied with his borrowed notions of rhyme and style, Charlie can tell wonderfully vivid stories set in the distant past…

But how on earth can a little cockney accountant know so much about life on a slave galley? Although he refuses his Indian friend’s offer to have the boy hypnotised with an ink pool, the narrator begins to suspect…

Oh, I’m not telling you. I’ll give you the link instead, so you can read for yourselves this lovely tale about writing and storytelling, about imagination and life… down to the ironically cautionary ending.

A perfect read for a summer night.