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The Siege of Krishnapur by J. G. Farrell

The Siege of Krishnapur (1973)

by J. G. Farrell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,691546,408 (4.06)447
  1. 60
    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. 50
    Burmese Days by George Orwell (lmichet, Philosofiction)
    lmichet: Another work of biting commentary about the British in India
  3. 50
    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.
  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. 10
    The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott (Cecrow)
  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. 00
    The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye (mcenroeucsb)
  8. 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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Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
I'm throwing in the towel for now. I skimmed the first few chapters again and while I can see what Farrell is doing, it's not working for me.

I feel like I'm reading Austen after Jo Baker wrote Longbourn or something. It's not the case that there are no (or only a couple) Indian characters. The Indians are everywhere, because otherwise the British couldn't put one foot in front of the other. It's that they are all in the background, mostly voiceless. If I had read this when it came out, or even in the 1980s, when I was grateful for any talented author writing about imperialism in a thoughtful way, I'm sure I would have loved it. But I'm reading it through a 2019 lens that I can't seem to put aside.

Given I own this in two formats, I'm sure I'll come back to it at some point. Maybe after I've read Troubles and have a better handle on Farrell's overall approach and style.
  Sunita_p | May 17, 2019 |
Fictional tale of the Sepoy Uprising in India in 1857 to 1858 written by J. G. Farrell and winner of the Booker in 1973. The story was well written and very readable. A siege is not a pretty thing, to be surrounded by the enemy and all you have are limited resources of defense (both arms and men), food, water, it tells the tale from an every shrinking world. At first the British have it all and then soon, they only struggle to stay alive. It really is a comedy of Victorian manners and the humor that the author injects a long the way is appreciated. It is also a view of colonialism in this Victorian Era when British were running things and thought that the Asian's were lucky to have them there to help them be civilized, to bring them such wonderful things. It explores the rapid changes in inventions during this time. In addition, a great deal is spent on religion; catholic verses protestant, Christian verses Hinduism and Islam. And the fight between two doctors over the right way to treat Cholera. Of course the uprising resulted from the insensitivity of the British to the local religious mores. The grease used in cartridges that the Sepoy's were exposed to when opening cartridges. ( )
1 vote Kristelh | May 30, 2018 |
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. ( )
2 vote GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
Fascinating look at what empire means, in its moral decay, as the "happy native" ideal begins to be stripped away and Britain is faced with violence in India--all told with biting humor and incisive prose. This is the middle book of a loose trilogy, beginning with Troubles (which I loved) and The Singapore Grip (which I've yet to read). ( )
1 vote MichaelBarsa | Dec 17, 2017 |
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. ( )
1 vote janerawoof | Mar 3, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 52 (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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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)

» see all 5 descriptions

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NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 159017092X, 1590173732

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