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The Siege of Krishnapur by J. G. Farrell

The Siege of Krishnapur (1973)

by J. G. Farrell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,549514,735 (4.06)414
  1. 50
    The Singapore Grip by J. G. Farrell (kidzdoc)
    kidzdoc: The third novel in Farrell's Empire Trilogy, which is about the fall of the British Empire in 1930s Singapore.
  2. 40
    Troubles by J. G. Farrell (kidzdoc)
    kidzdoc: The first novel in Farrell's Empire Trilogy, which was awarded the Lost Man Booker Prize for the best novel of 1970.
  3. 40
    Burmese Days by George Orwell (lmichet, Philosofiction)
    lmichet: Another work of biting commentary about the British in India
  4. 20
    Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene (terrazoon)
    terrazoon: Good satires are hard to find. Although the subject matter is different, if you like one you will probably like the other.
  5. 00
    The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye (mcenroeucsb)
  6. 00
    English Passengers by Matthew Kneale (Rynooo)
    Rynooo: English Passengers is an awesome work of historical fiction - it is by turns hilarious, shocking and thought provoking.
  7. 12
    The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (chrisschoeters)
    chrisschoeters: Beautiful, amazingly simple but emotionally complex. I would recommend this book to alle readers older than 14!

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» See also 414 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
Witty and well-written novel conflating the Sieges of Lucknow and Cawnpore during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, into the fictional Siege of Krishnapur. The story concerns a group of English in that area in Northern India who hold out for four months against mutinous sepoys. Trapped inside the official Residence and surrounding compound, which has been ringed by a dirt barrier and a ditch, we see the interactions among the various stiff upper lipped characters and their bravery, battling not only the sepoys, but hunger and cholera. I wondered if the novel was a satire on the Victorian English in India. Some events were certainly chuckle-worthy, intentional or not. Some of the turns of phrase were priceless.

Highly recommended. ( )
  janerawoof | Mar 3, 2017 |
Somewhere on the arid plains of Bengal lay an English enclave in a town called Krishnapur, equipped with a Magistrate and a Collector (of taxes, of course) and a Padre, a couple of doctors, and some soldiers and all the other necessary people, buildings, animals and belongings to give to thewives and children of a sizeable community meant to administer an extremely large area, a feeling of "home." As in [Troubles], the main character, The Collector, is very sympathetic which makes all the difference. Unlike the Major in many ways, oth men are innately kind and dutiful, and in some important way, indefatigable, possibly exemplars of the "best" of the ruling British hegemony. There is a huge house, more of a compound and a host of absorbing characters, not the least of which is Fleury, a young man who comes to court "the prettiest girl in India" and ends up finding himself. And there is the siege, the Collector, anticipating the rebellion, has dug fortifications around the core of the Residency, has stored provisions and weaponry and gunpowder, and is, in fact, ready when the rebellion descends upon Krishnapur. What is of paramount interest throughout is the changes that occur in various characters when survival becomes paramount. The implied critique of Empire building--that of making an assumption that your own culture is superior to everyone else's-- is brilliantly, slyly, tragically, and comically demonstrated once again. ***** ( )
1 vote sibyx | Jan 3, 2017 |
Hard to rate. Curious novel about the Mutiny in India. I enjoyed it but felt I was not the right reader for it and some of the humor was lost on me. The novel has a strange vibe - 1970s fiction by way of Thackery.

Farrell was a great writer, no doubt and there are some marvelous scenes that are almost cinamatic in their intensity. But admitedly, much of the book left me cold. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
Really a brilliant novel. I started it with fairly low expectations, but I was blown away. Well-written with a dark comic vibe, but ultimately moving and thought-provoking. Lots of memorable scenes--the picnic near the beginning of the book, which is both amusing and foreboding; the men scraping insects off of Miss Hughes; and poor Louise Dunstaple's birthday cake at the end. As soon as I finished the last page, I really wanted to go back to the beginning and read it all over again. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
All the characters are caricatures. There's a temptation to imagine which actor would best suit the role of each of those besieged at Krishnapur. The novel suggests a Victorian action film would be a likely spin-off.
The action takes place in 1857, when the native members of the Indian Army revolted against the command of the East India Company. The Company was a ruthless plunderer of Indian wealth, best described as the first multi-national corporation that "ran amok" ( ref: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/04/east-india-company-original-corporate-raiders).
The Mutiny resulted in what we would now call a government bail-out. The British government took over administration of India, until it was forced to depart in 1947, exhausted and broke.
Absurdity, shock, tragedy tumble in on those holed-up in the Residency. A ripping yarn from a top writer, alas taken from us too soon.
  ivanfranko | Jun 20, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
Farrell is the funniest novelist in English since Evelyn Waugh, with the same eye for the absurd as Tom Sharpe. This is the fictitious account, hilarious and horrifying by turns, of a besieged British garrison which held out for four months in the summer of 1857, the year of the Great Indian Mutiny, against a horde of native Sepoys. Despite the omens, the young British cavalry officers continue to indulge their taste for galloping into the nearest memsahib's drawing room, jumping over the sofas and then filling their sola topis with champagne instead of water to quench their horses' thirst. It is left to the Governor of Krishnapur, a sensitive, cultured man with a collection of treasures in his residence, to prepare for the siege. By the end of it cholera, starvation and the Sepoys have done for most of the inhabitants, who are reduced to eating beetles and, in the absence of powder and shot, loading their cannons with monogrammed silver cutlery and false teeth. The final retreat of the British, still doggedly stiff-upper-lipped, through the pantries, laundries, music rooms and ballroom of the residency, using chandeliers and violins as weapons, is a comic delight. And so is the usually serious Tim Pigott-Smith, whose repertoire of characters, from petulant maharajas to pink-faced subalterns - "I say, may we come in, we've come to relieve you" - is dazzling.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Guardian, Sue Arnold (Sep 24, 2005)

Farrell can write with a fury to match his theme. As spectacle, The Siege of Krishnapur has the blaze and the agony of a scenario for hell. But as moral commentary, it is overcalculated—and its ironies unsuitably neat.
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Anyone who has never before reached Krishnapur, and who approaches from the east, is likely to think that he has reached the end of his journey a few miles sooner than he expected.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 159017092X, Paperback)

"The first sign of trouble at Krishnapur came with a mysterious distribution of chapatis, made of coarse flour and about the size and thickness of a biscuit; towards the end of February 1857, they swept the countryside like an epidemic."

Students of history will recognize 1857 as the year of the Sepoy rebellion in India--an uprising of native soldiers against the British, brought on by Hindu and Muslim recruits' belief that the rifle cartridges they were provided had been greased with pig or cow fat. This seminal event in Anglo-Indian relations provides the backdrop for J.G. Farrell's Booker Prize-winning exploration of race, culture, and class, The Siege of Krishnapur.

Like the mysteriously appearing chapatis, life in British India seems, on the surface, innocuous enough. Farrell introduces us gradually to a large cast of characters as he paints a vivid portrait of the Victorians' daily routines that are accompanied by heat, boredom, class consciousness, and the pursuit of genteel pastimes intended for cooler climates. Even the siege begins slowly, with disquieting news of massacres in cities far away. When Krishnapur itself is finally attacked, the Europeans withdraw inside the grounds of the Residency where very soon conditions begin to deteriorate: food and water run out, disease is rampant, people begin to go a little mad. Soon the very proper British are reduced to eating insects and consorting across class lines. Farrell's descriptions of life inside the Residency are simultaneously horrifying and blackly humorous. The siege, for example, is conducted under the avid eyes of the local populace, who clearly anticipate an enjoyable massacre and thus arrive every morning laden with picnic lunches (plainly visible to the starving Europeans). By turns witty and compassionate, The Siege of Krishnapur comprises the best of all fictional worlds: unforgettable characters, an epic adventure, and at its heart a cultural clash for the ages. Quite simply, this is a splendid novel. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:13 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The British residents of Krishnapur, a Victorian outpost on the subcontinent of India in 1857, are initially unperturbed by rumors of strife from afar, but when they find themselves under siege by native soldiers, they withdraw into the Residency where they slowly come to realize the true character of colonialism.… (more)

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NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 159017092X, 1590173732

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