The Siege of Krishnapur

The Siege of KrishnapurI had to study this for my A level and it was one of the few fictional books that I've had to dissect which still came out as one of my favourite books.

There are so many amazing moments in this book that it's difficult to know which to pick out but the incident on the stairs will remain with me for my lifetime I know.

The characters are believable, the setting is, obviously, historically realistic and the outcome of the novel is an acceptable conclusion which demonstrates perfectly the flaws of the old British Empire and how the decline began in the Indian Raj.

Events in the book are both brutal and also hilarious, the mix between these two elements makes the horrific incidents even more shocking and, in George Fleury, Farrell has created a character who isn't so much a hero as a man forced by circumstance to up his game and turn his back on the dandified British officer background he comes from when things come to a head as the Sepoys mutiny, taking the local populace with them.

The other characters are portrayed as superficial, everything exists within the vacuum created by the sieging natives and yet life goes on as normal for this section of the elite and their servants.

Farrell makes no mention of those involved in the uprising, they are kept as a faceless mass of seething anger and hatred and this helps to prolong the feeling that those stuck inside Krishnapur's British compound were also ignorant of the native population and what effect the Raj was having on their country and their existence.

Having said that, Farrell was a supremely talented author and, in spite of their flaws and their selfabsorbing and selfserving nature, you do want to see them survive and get back home to Blighty.

He finishes off the novel with a sucker punch, none of those involved who survive appear to have learnt their lessons at all, they return to other parts of the Empire with the same attitudes of superiority and condescension they brought back from India.

It's a supremely well written book and a deserved winner of the 1974 Booker Prize. It's also part of his Empire trilogy of books looking at the breakdown in the British Empire alongside Troubles (set in Ireland and also a winner of the Lost Man Booker Prize of 1970) and The Singapore Grip.

That his talent was lost at such a relatively early age when he drowned while fishing off the coast of Ireland aged only 44, is a real blow. I am seeing stuff about this novel which says like “I read a paragraph and fell asleep for 48 hours, this is one boring book”, or “I read a page of this, it took a fortnight, this is the opposite of fun”. But I don’t get that, they are saying that no shit is happening in this book but it’s about a siege man so you can bet shit is happening, there is cholera and legs off and piles of bodies and mangy dogs that will eat other dogs and people get boils a lot, I didn’t know that was such a big thing in a siege. So as opposed to this book being boring I say that this book could be a damn video game, it’s laid out like one, you got all these British types with a leader and some fearless warriors and you got this army of faceless sepoys (= Indian soldiers) which could be orcs or name your favourite faceless horde who are attacking the small number of brave white people (so unfairly) and your task is to get the white people to shoot all the black people before the black people rape and murder them all. Okay to put it like that might could sound a bit racist but this is about 1857 which was a very racist year, more racist than now.

Well, I hope it’s better now, cause we have got 150 more years of getting enlightened, right? So it’s got to be better now. So I guess you could compare this Krishnapur siege with a real life siege going on today which would be like Mosul or Aleppo in Syria but it’s hard to compare because there are a lot more people getting killed because everybody has got a whole lot more bombs and guns and ammo and it’s not mostly white against mostly non white and also the non white people are inside the city and the white people are outside so it’s kind of the opposite but still you can find some white people bombing some Syrian people (check out those headlines “85 Dead after American Air Strike Mistake” 20 July 2016). Well I see I drifted off there but a novel like this does make you wonder. In this book the Brits in imperial India are awfully sniffy about the poor ignorant masses of Indians and so hoity toity it’s hard not to root for the sepoys when the shit starts to go down.

These sepoys, right, they had a beef (ha ha, joke) with the English which was that the English had muscled into their country and just took it over. I mean, that's just wrong, right. So you can see that things are much more enlightened now, where the last recent wars the west has had with the east, which was Iraq and Afghanistan, was to muscle into their countries and take them over. Okay, wait, there was a big difference, they just threw out one lot of rulers and put in their own lot and then they more or less left. So, you know, I think that is better. We in the west are learning!

Okay so this book is full of eccentric English types and acts of courage by brave English types fresh out of Eton whose arms get blown off and then they get maggots in their goolies because it's India, and naturally there are one or two eccentric Indian types, but absolutely zero brave Indian types, that’s because the book is mirroring the mind set of the time. Things have improved since then. Now our newspapers fairly report bravery and courage by both sides in this complicated war in Syria where some Syrians are our allies. Well you might think they would, only I never saw any of that. The only Syrians I see these days are your hapless refugee types who are glad of a packet of dried soup handed to them by a well meaning government sponsored white person or the incorrigible dastardly bad types who boil people alive and are causing all these problems.
Well I hope I am not coming across as bitter or cynical here. I know there’s been progress and that everything’s so much better than it was in 1857. But probably we are just going through a period when it’s not so easy to see that.

DID I LIKE THIS NOVEL?

Hmm well that is not such a straight forward question. J G Farrell can write real smooth and wry stuff, and his novel Troubles is a big favourite. This one I sort of thought I’d seen before kind of. He had his black humour going all day long here – I will quote a couple of examples :

Without soap all her efforts to render herself odourless had proved in vain… her only comfort was that she smelled less than many of the other ladies of her own class and, of course, than all those of the classes beneath her.

And he likes to skewer the standard grotesque sexism of the day :

Girls had a habit, he knew, of distressing themselves over things which did not exist. It was something to do with their wombs, so a fellow officer has once told him.

I believe this is a 3.5 star novel, because after a while you are quite anxious that the sepoys kill all the idiot Brits and it kind of drags on and on – hey, just like a real siege does, I see what he did there. But he does know his stuff and he’s amusing, and if this is really shooting fish in a barrel, which it is, he’s a dead shot.


The Siege Of Jadotville FilmAlloCin The Siege Of Jadotville Est Un Film Ralis Par Richie Smyth Avec Jamie Dornan, Guillaume Canet Synopsis La Bataille Qui Semblait Perdue D Avance Du Commandant Patrick Quinlan Et De Ses Siege Of Traduction En Franais Exemples AnglaisThe Siege Of Sarajevo Typifies These Tactics Le Sige De Sarajevo Est Typique De Cette Tactique BetweenMarch AndSeptemberPegasus Participated In The Siege Of Alexandria Entre LeMars Et Leseptembrele Pegasus A Particip Au Sige D Alexandrie The Siege Of JadotvilleIMDb The Siege Of Jadotville TV MA H Min Action , Drama , HistoryOctoberUSA Irish Commandant Pat Quinlan Leads A Stand Off With Troops Against French And Belgian Mercenaries In The Congo During The Early S The Siege Of JerusalemAD The Great Jewish The Entire Documentary On The Roman Siege Of Jerusalem InAD This Massive Battle Is One Of The Most Stunning Of All Antiquity On Display Were Impressive Siege Works And The Siege Arrowverse Wiki FandomSiege Of The International Legations Wikipedia The Siege Of The International Legations Occurred Inin Peking, The Capital Of The Qing Empire, During The Boxer RebellionMenaced By The Boxers, An Anti Christian, Anti Foreign Peasant Movement,soldiers, Marines, And Civilians, Largely From Europe, Japan, And The United States, And About , Chinese Christians Took Refuge In The Peking Legation Quarter The SiegeRotten Tomatoes Even At Its Most Unbelievable, The Siege Has The Performances Of Washington And Bening To Fall Back On, And A Theme That Understands That What S Difficult Is Not Choosing Right From Wrong ButThe Siege Of Jerusalem Third Edition Board Siege Lines Have Been Secured Tight About The City There Is No Hope Of Escape The Besieged Must Persist Behind Their Stout Walls Or Perish Before A Vengeful Rome Five Grueling Years Of Campaigning In Judea Is Now Culminating In The Siege Of Jerusalem GLORYHAMMER The Siege Of Dunkeld In HootsThe Siege Of Dunkeld In Hoots We Trust Is The First Part Of The Third Thrilling Chapter Of The GLORYHAMMER Saga And Tells What Angus McFife XIII Siege Of Jadotville Wikipedia The Siege Of Jadotville Was An Engagement During The Congo Crisis In SeptemberA Company, Th Battalion Of The Irish Army ONUC Contingent Was Attacked By Katangese Gendarmerie Troops Loyal To The Katangese Prime Minister Mose Tshombe The Lightly Armed Irish Soldiers, Besieged In Jadotville, Resisted Katangese Assaults For Five Days As A Relief Force Of Irish, Indian And Swedish Troops We look on past ages with condescension, as a mere preparation for us....but what if we are a mere afterglow of them?

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it was the first prominent novel, when it came out back in the 70s, that poked fun at the raison d’être of British rule in India; maybe it was a pioneering attempt by a [British] writer to show the absurdity of colonial superiority by laying bare its own inner inconsistencies through wellcrafted British characters battling their own civilisational demons; and maybe it was the first of its kind when a writer penned something about the Raj without stooping down to the level of a twinkleeyed romantic suffering from nostalgic cramps for the lost "Jewel in the Crown."

To this end Farrell is quite successful. This is whence all rating stars come. Through the drama that unveils during the long summer months of siege at the Krishnapur Residency, the confined British officials and civilians come to a slow and painful realisation of the fragile state of their own civilisation they in their hauteur thought was invincible. Primary among them is the Collector who sees the futility of the great advance of science and art when, for the sake of survival, he is forced to use artifacts as cannon fodder when ammunition runs out; Drs Dunstaple and McNab, who were proud of the superiority of modern medicine, get into a bitter conflict when they fail to agree on the most appropriate treatment for the epidemic of cholera amongst the besieged; the ladies eyeing one another in disgust when they are put together into one big hall in complete disregard for their social rank; through the figure of the cynical Padre who, instead of providing a moralreligious support, sweats over inconsequential doctrinal debate going on in Germany – a superior civilisation shown rattling at its base when for once they were forced to confront the tragedy of life at point blank. Yet despite this there is stubborn refusal to admit to the real reasons of the Rebellion. It is ingratitude – worse, indifferenceon the part of the native towards the fruits of ‘civilisation’

…the collector was overcome by a feeling of helplessness. He realized that there was a whole way of life of the people in India which he could never get to know and which was totally indifferent to him and his concerns. ‘The Company could pack up tomorrow and this fellow would never notice…And not only him…The British could leave and half India wouldn’t notice us leaving just as they didn’t notice us arriving. All our reforms of administration might be reforms on the moon for all it has to do with them.’

Irony is very well done but other than that, though it carries some flashes of fine writing, as all prominent novels do, it’s lacking in style. It is also lacking in interesting drama which a story set amid such an animated year of history shouldn’t have to be said about; and there are stretches of flat and uninteresting prose that, well, just didn’t do it for me.

This novel is described as a fictional account of the War of Independence / Sepoy Mutiny / Rebellion / WhatYouCallIt of 1857. The reading of the novel makes it hard to justify this descriptor without qualified comment. Yes, it’s set around that episode of IndianBritish history but the scope of the historical setting is so limited as to fit in a preface; what follows after that bears little resemblance to that momentous year. Which is to say it does not make you feel you’re really reading about 1857 but a longwinded random tale of heroic defence put up by a bunch of brave Brits against odds, against an army of anonymous native shadows.

My edition is 375 pages long. One would think in a novel of this size there was ample space for the inclusion of native point of view, a few characters who could be portrayed talking, walking and brooding like their British counterparts, even if to enrich the story if not to actually represent their point of view. But there is none of that save a halfbaked caricature of a lowly crownless ‘prince’, named Hari and his mannequinlike ‘prime minister’. This Hari has had elementary British education, speaks ungrammatical English, and has taken to amassing bricabrac of art in imitation of the British masters. He is a dimwit and a lecher – two traits of the Indian character British chroniclers of that time didn’t tire of recording. Oh and there are three more natives who are mentioned more than once – all three serving the Company Bahadur faithfully during the siege, sharing its travails and just being true to their salt. They are Ram, Muhammad, and a burly Sikh named Hookum Singh (no Nanak Singh unfortunately) – and they don’t utter a word throughout the story, just follow orders. How convenient!

The Collector, the official in charge of the British administration in the fictional Krishnapur, gets a timely vision of their eventual success. Consider this symbol of the native seeking liberty:

Suddenly, a shadow swooped at him out of a thin grove of peepul trees he was passing through. He raised a hand to defend himself as something tried to claw and bite him, then swooped away again. In the twilight he saw two green pebbles gazing down at him from beneath a sailor cap. It was the pet monkey he had seen before in the shadow of the Church; the animal had managed to bite and tear itself free of its jacket but the sailor hat had defied all its efforts. Again and again, in a frenzy of irritation it had clutched at that hat on which was written "HMS John Company" . . . but it had remained in place. The string beneath its jaw was too strong.

Maybe it’s just me.
fairly enjoyable overall and the period details are particularly fascinating. or maybe i just have a thing for the specific era on display. unfortunately something left me cold about this novel. perhaps it was the lack of oldfashioned adventure in what was a tale of a very bloody and very lengthy siege. perhaps it was the constantly ironic and semicomic portraits of the characters, both english and indian. although the author uses his barbed wit in a rather unique fashion, as an approach to an historical adventure overstuffed with commentary on the nature of humanity, rationalism, religion, the colonial mindset, imperialism, etc... the tone just seemed so condescending. it actually made the experience feel slight when it could have been rich and satisfying. in a novel filled with much death and despair, i often longed for deeper emotions and higher qualities to surface. the ironic, comedic detachment became oppressive at times. like taking a road trip with your most sarcastic, cynical friend: you understand them, you may agree with their viewpoint, but hearing that commentary on every single thing that passes by? it gets wearying.

 photo tiredzpsf89b5605.gif

still, a highly intelligent and very wellwritten novel. certainly a worthy experience. My views on colonialism are such that in this recounting of battle between Brits and mutinous Sepoys, I had no trouble rooting for the home team.

Farrell feels the same way. Even the most kindhearted of his characters are flawed, if only because they just don't get it or can't make themselves understood.

Yet, this telling of the Great Mutiny is Anglocentric. So this is not about why the Sepoys mutinied. Of course they did. No, this is about the British who were there, and about how they could have been anywhere. It is British culture hiding behind the melting ramparts, British culture being swallowed by the encroaching jungle.

As a reflective character says in a kind of epilogue, "Culture is a sham....It's a cosmetic painted on life by rich people to conceal its ugliness." This is an excellent read and captures well the British in India in the nineteenth century with historical accuracy. There is great wit and humour in the book and some genuinely funny moments; however it is also a very brutal book with some grim scenarios. It captures well the British approach to empire in the characters of those caught in the siege and watching their gradual deterioration physically and mentally is fascinating. One of the characters has many antiques and artifacts from the Great Exhibition, which to him represent the future, rationalism and progress. Towards the end of the siege they are broken apart and used as cannon shot to fire at the natives/sepoys; a very clever reflection on modernity and progress. The changing role and perception of the women is very interesting and the futility of religion is well represented by the rather bizarre figure of the padre. A very stimulating read. The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell is a book with a message—it offers up a critique of the British Empire and in particular Britain’s control of India in the middle 1800s. The message is conveyed through satire, dipping into farce in its final episodes Imagine this—a character swinging from a chandelier and a Sepoy, strangled by a violin string, suddenly reappearing after he is thought to be dead!

This sounds too absurd. Don’t be turned away. The story is well told. You cannot properly judge a book until you have tested the writing.

The Siege of Krishnapur, and the town itself, are fictional, but the story is based on sieges that actually did occur at Lucknow and Cawnapore during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

The siege is drawn in detail. The description is gruesome—bombardments and stabbings, starvation, decaying bodies and an allpermeating stench. The infestation of vermin and insects is horrific. Cholera spreads. Other illnesses too. Disputes arise. We watch as any semblance of civilized behavior evaporates. Moral codes are discarded. It becomes impossible to behave with sanity. Reading this book allows one to experience up close life in a town under siege.

The humor varies in type—often satirical, occasionally farcical, and other times simply an amusing choice of words. Some examples—boar hunting is referred to as "pigsticking", one character’s thoughts are "poached" and “apoplectic snapdragons” guard the drive leading up to a house.

It sounds strange that a book mixing gruesome real life events and farce can work, but this book shows that this is possible. Farrell succeeds though a clever choice of words, an adept usage of symbolism and an ability to know when and where to add humor. The addition of humor makes the darkest of moments bearable. He places the humor in just the right places.

The audiobook is narrated by Peter Wickham. That he speaks with a British accent is perfect. His reading is easy to follow and not overdramatized. My rating of the narration is four stars, just as is my rating of the written book. The Siege of Krishnapur is a dark page in the colonial history… And very inventively and cunningly J.G. Farrell manages to turn his tale into a clash of idealism and materialism…
What you and I object to is the emptiness of the life behind all these objects, their materialism in other words. Objects are useless by themselves. How pathetic they are compared with noble feelings! What a poor and limited world they reveal beside the world of the eternal soul!

The ideal and material worlds are in the state of constant collision… Consequently, riots and rebellions are manifestations of this everlasting conflict…
“Oh Louise,” he exclaimed, “that is why it’s so important that we bring to India a civilization of the heart, and not only to India but to the whole world… rather than this sordid materialism. Only then will we have a chance of living together in harmony. Will there even be classes and races on that golden day in the future? No! For we shall all be brothers working not to take advantage of each other but for each other’s good!”

God placed Adam and Eve in the paradise offering them an ideal existence in an ideal world… And the Serpent seduced them to eat a forbidden fruit so they would know the temptations of a material world…
And J.G. Farrell is capable to portray even the darkest moments of the story without losing his sharp and intelligent irony…
They were glad of prayers. They felt that the more prayers they heard the better. But they became a little impatient as the Padre rambled on about Sin. What he said was true, no doubt, but they had the enemy to think of… It was rather like having someone keep asking you the time when your house is on fire. They found it hard to give him their whole attention.

However high may one’s ideals be but without material things, one just will die…
“All our actions and intentions are futile unless animated by warmth of feeling. Without love everything is a desert. Even Justice, Science, and Respectability.”

Only the equilibrium of the ideal and the material can bring harmony. A fictionalized account of the Indian Mutiny (1857), as the British call it, or the First War of Independence, as it's known in India. I agree with my GR friend Mark Monday who felt there was insufficient adventure here. We don't get any great battlefield set pieces, or much in the line of guerrilla warfare either. Instead, the story focuses on a relatively small group of twenty or so British subjects within the government compound of Lucknow, disguised here as Krishnapur, and how they fend off the attacking Muslim sepoys until relieved by their fellow occupying nationals.

The book is a pleasure read. I understand Farrell wanted to emphasize the claustrophobic isolation of the Residency, and how that strain told over time on the everthinning inhabitants. But to do that he felt he had to ignore the native POV, and that was something I missed keenly as a reader. Granted, the book is what it is. I don't want to say that Farrell should have written some other book.

The novel is anticolonial in the best sense, not at all in a hectoring or strident fashion. Author Farrell shows us why the imperialist mindset was wrong from the start by way of so many actions and images. One being the materialistspiritualist dichotomy which is an ongoing theme throughout the novel. The Great Exhibition of 1851 serves as the embodiment of the materialist side. We know the tide has turned against expansionist imperialism when the Collector, earlier such a great fan of the Exhibition, comes to the conclusion that
He, too, [had] suffered from an occasionally enlightening vision which came to him from the dim past and which he must have suppressed at the time . . . The extraordinary array of chains and fetters, manacles and shackles exhibited by Birmingham for export to America's slave states, for instance . . . Why had he not thought more about such exhibits? Well, he had never pretended that science and industry were good in themselves, of course . . . They still had to be used correctly. All the same he should have thought a great deal more about what lay behind the exhibits.


Of course, the view that science was and is good in itself was exactly the view that the Collector espoused before the siege opened his eyes. Recommended for all, but especially lovers of the historical novel.

James Gordon Farrell, known as J.G. Farrell, was a Liverpool-born novelist of Irish descent. Farrell gained prominence for his historical fiction, most notably his Empire Trilogy (Troubles, The Siege of Krishnapur and The Singapore Grip), dealing with the political and human consequences of British colonial rule. The Siege of Krishnapur won the 1973 Booker Prize. On 19 May 2010 it was announced th

[PDF / Epub] ☂ The Siege of Krishnapur Author J.G. Farrell – Online-strattera-atomoxetine.info
    The Siege Of Jadotville FilmAlloCin The Siege Of Jadotville Est Un Film Ralis Par Richie Smyth Avec Jamie Dornan, Guillaume Canet Synopsis La Bataille Qui Semblait Perdue D Avance Du Commandant Patrick Quinlan Et De Ses Siege Of Traduction En Franais Exemples AnglaisThe Siege Of Sarajevo Typifies These Tactics Le Sige De Sarajevo Est Typique De Cette Tactique BetweenMarch AndSeptemberPegasus Participated In The Siege Of Alexandria Entre LeMars Et Leseptembrele Pegasus A Particip Au Sige D Alexandrie The Siege Of JadotvilleIMDb The Siege Of Jadotville TV MA H Min Action , Drama , HistoryOctoberUSA Irish Commandant Pat Quinlan Leads A Stand Off With Troops Against French And Belgian Mercenaries In The Congo During The Early S The Siege Of JerusalemAD The Great Jewish The Entire Documentary On The Roman Siege Of Jerusalem InAD This Massive Battle Is One Of The Most Stunning Of All Antiquity On Display Were Impressive Siege Works And The Siege Arrowverse Wiki FandomSiege Of The International Legations Wikipedia The Siege Of The International Legations Occurred Inin Peking, The Capital Of The Qing Empire, During The Boxer RebellionMenaced By The Boxers, An Anti Christian, Anti Foreign Peasant Movement,soldiers, Marines, And Civilians, Largely From Europe, Japan, And The United States, And About , Chinese Christians Took Refuge In The Peking Legation Quarter The SiegeRotten Tomatoes Even At Its Most Unbelievable, The Siege Has The Performances Of Washington And Bening To Fall Back On, And A Theme That Understands That What S Difficult Is Not Choosing Right From Wrong ButThe Siege Of Jerusalem Third Edition Board Siege Lines Have Been Secured Tight About The City There Is No Hope Of Escape The Besieged Must Persist Behind Their Stout Walls Or Perish Before A Vengeful Rome Five Grueling Years Of Campaigning In Judea Is Now Culminating In The Siege Of Jerusalem GLORYHAMMER The Siege Of Dunkeld In HootsThe Siege Of Dunkeld In Hoots We Trust Is The First Part Of The Third Thrilling Chapter Of The GLORYHAMMER Saga And Tells What Angus McFife XIII Siege Of Jadotville Wikipedia The Siege Of Jadotville Was An Engagement During The Congo Crisis In SeptemberA Company, Th Battalion Of The Irish Army ONUC Contingent Was Attacked By Katangese Gendarmerie Troops Loyal To The Katangese Prime Minister Mose Tshombe The Lightly Armed Irish Soldiers, Besieged In Jadotville, Resisted Katangese Assaults For Five Days As A Relief Force Of Irish, Indian And Swedish Troops We look on past ages with condescension, as a mere preparation for us....but what if we are a mere afterglow of them?

    Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it was the first prominent novel, when it came out back in the 70s, that poked fun at the raison d’être of British rule in India; maybe it was a pioneering attempt by a [British] writer to show the absurdity of colonial superiority by laying bare its own inner inconsistencies through wellcrafted British characters battling their own civilisational demons; and maybe it was the first of its kind when a writer penned something about the Raj without stooping down to the level of a twinkleeyed romantic suffering from nostalgic cramps for the lost "Jewel in the Crown."

    To this end Farrell is quite successful. This is whence all rating stars come. Through the drama that unveils during the long summer months of siege at the Krishnapur Residency, the confined British officials and civilians come to a slow and painful realisation of the fragile state of their own civilisation they in their hauteur thought was invincible. Primary among them is the Collector who sees the futility of the great advance of science and art when, for the sake of survival, he is forced to use artifacts as cannon fodder when ammunition runs out; Drs Dunstaple and McNab, who were proud of the superiority of modern medicine, get into a bitter conflict when they fail to agree on the most appropriate treatment for the epidemic of cholera amongst the besieged; the ladies eyeing one another in disgust when they are put together into one big hall in complete disregard for their social rank; through the figure of the cynical Padre who, instead of providing a moralreligious support, sweats over inconsequential doctrinal debate going on in Germany – a superior civilisation shown rattling at its base when for once they were forced to confront the tragedy of life at point blank. Yet despite this there is stubborn refusal to admit to the real reasons of the Rebellion. It is ingratitude – worse, indifferenceon the part of the native towards the fruits of ‘civilisation’

    …the collector was overcome by a feeling of helplessness. He realized that there was a whole way of life of the people in India which he could never get to know and which was totally indifferent to him and his concerns. ‘The Company could pack up tomorrow and this fellow would never notice…And not only him…The British could leave and half India wouldn’t notice us leaving just as they didn’t notice us arriving. All our reforms of administration might be reforms on the moon for all it has to do with them.’

    Irony is very well done but other than that, though it carries some flashes of fine writing, as all prominent novels do, it’s lacking in style. It is also lacking in interesting drama which a story set amid such an animated year of history shouldn’t have to be said about; and there are stretches of flat and uninteresting prose that, well, just didn’t do it for me.

    This novel is described as a fictional account of the War of Independence / Sepoy Mutiny / Rebellion / WhatYouCallIt of 1857. The reading of the novel makes it hard to justify this descriptor without qualified comment. Yes, it’s set around that episode of IndianBritish history but the scope of the historical setting is so limited as to fit in a preface; what follows after that bears little resemblance to that momentous year. Which is to say it does not make you feel you’re really reading about 1857 but a longwinded random tale of heroic defence put up by a bunch of brave Brits against odds, against an army of anonymous native shadows.

    My edition is 375 pages long. One would think in a novel of this size there was ample space for the inclusion of native point of view, a few characters who could be portrayed talking, walking and brooding like their British counterparts, even if to enrich the story if not to actually represent their point of view. But there is none of that save a halfbaked caricature of a lowly crownless ‘prince’, named Hari and his mannequinlike ‘prime minister’. This Hari has had elementary British education, speaks ungrammatical English, and has taken to amassing bricabrac of art in imitation of the British masters. He is a dimwit and a lecher – two traits of the Indian character British chroniclers of that time didn’t tire of recording. Oh and there are three more natives who are mentioned more than once – all three serving the Company Bahadur faithfully during the siege, sharing its travails and just being true to their salt. They are Ram, Muhammad, and a burly Sikh named Hookum Singh (no Nanak Singh unfortunately) – and they don’t utter a word throughout the story, just follow orders. How convenient!

    The Collector, the official in charge of the British administration in the fictional Krishnapur, gets a timely vision of their eventual success. Consider this symbol of the native seeking liberty:

    Suddenly, a shadow swooped at him out of a thin grove of peepul trees he was passing through. He raised a hand to defend himself as something tried to claw and bite him, then swooped away again. In the twilight he saw two green pebbles gazing down at him from beneath a sailor cap. It was the pet monkey he had seen before in the shadow of the Church; the animal had managed to bite and tear itself free of its jacket but the sailor hat had defied all its efforts. Again and again, in a frenzy of irritation it had clutched at that hat on which was written "HMS John Company" . . . but it had remained in place. The string beneath its jaw was too strong.

    Maybe it’s just me.
    fairly enjoyable overall and the period details are particularly fascinating. or maybe i just have a thing for the specific era on display. unfortunately something left me cold about this novel. perhaps it was the lack of oldfashioned adventure in what was a tale of a very bloody and very lengthy siege. perhaps it was the constantly ironic and semicomic portraits of the characters, both english and indian. although the author uses his barbed wit in a rather unique fashion, as an approach to an historical adventure overstuffed with commentary on the nature of humanity, rationalism, religion, the colonial mindset, imperialism, etc... the tone just seemed so condescending. it actually made the experience feel slight when it could have been rich and satisfying. in a novel filled with much death and despair, i often longed for deeper emotions and higher qualities to surface. the ironic, comedic detachment became oppressive at times. like taking a road trip with your most sarcastic, cynical friend: you understand them, you may agree with their viewpoint, but hearing that commentary on every single thing that passes by? it gets wearying.

     photo tiredzpsf89b5605.gif

    still, a highly intelligent and very wellwritten novel. certainly a worthy experience. My views on colonialism are such that in this recounting of battle between Brits and mutinous Sepoys, I had no trouble rooting for the home team.

    Farrell feels the same way. Even the most kindhearted of his characters are flawed, if only because they just don't get it or can't make themselves understood.

    Yet, this telling of the Great Mutiny is Anglocentric. So this is not about why the Sepoys mutinied. Of course they did. No, this is about the British who were there, and about how they could have been anywhere. It is British culture hiding behind the melting ramparts, British culture being swallowed by the encroaching jungle.

    As a reflective character says in a kind of epilogue, "Culture is a sham....It's a cosmetic painted on life by rich people to conceal its ugliness." This is an excellent read and captures well the British in India in the nineteenth century with historical accuracy. There is great wit and humour in the book and some genuinely funny moments; however it is also a very brutal book with some grim scenarios. It captures well the British approach to empire in the characters of those caught in the siege and watching their gradual deterioration physically and mentally is fascinating. One of the characters has many antiques and artifacts from the Great Exhibition, which to him represent the future, rationalism and progress. Towards the end of the siege they are broken apart and used as cannon shot to fire at the natives/sepoys; a very clever reflection on modernity and progress. The changing role and perception of the women is very interesting and the futility of religion is well represented by the rather bizarre figure of the padre. A very stimulating read. The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell is a book with a message—it offers up a critique of the British Empire and in particular Britain’s control of India in the middle 1800s. The message is conveyed through satire, dipping into farce in its final episodes Imagine this—a character swinging from a chandelier and a Sepoy, strangled by a violin string, suddenly reappearing after he is thought to be dead!

    This sounds too absurd. Don’t be turned away. The story is well told. You cannot properly judge a book until you have tested the writing.

    The Siege of Krishnapur, and the town itself, are fictional, but the story is based on sieges that actually did occur at Lucknow and Cawnapore during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

    The siege is drawn in detail. The description is gruesome—bombardments and stabbings, starvation, decaying bodies and an allpermeating stench. The infestation of vermin and insects is horrific. Cholera spreads. Other illnesses too. Disputes arise. We watch as any semblance of civilized behavior evaporates. Moral codes are discarded. It becomes impossible to behave with sanity. Reading this book allows one to experience up close life in a town under siege.

    The humor varies in type—often satirical, occasionally farcical, and other times simply an amusing choice of words. Some examples—boar hunting is referred to as "pigsticking", one character’s thoughts are "poached" and “apoplectic snapdragons” guard the drive leading up to a house.

    It sounds strange that a book mixing gruesome real life events and farce can work, but this book shows that this is possible. Farrell succeeds though a clever choice of words, an adept usage of symbolism and an ability to know when and where to add humor. The addition of humor makes the darkest of moments bearable. He places the humor in just the right places.

    The audiobook is narrated by Peter Wickham. That he speaks with a British accent is perfect. His reading is easy to follow and not overdramatized. My rating of the narration is four stars, just as is my rating of the written book. The Siege of Krishnapur is a dark page in the colonial history… And very inventively and cunningly J.G. Farrell manages to turn his tale into a clash of idealism and materialism…
    What you and I object to is the emptiness of the life behind all these objects, their materialism in other words. Objects are useless by themselves. How pathetic they are compared with noble feelings! What a poor and limited world they reveal beside the world of the eternal soul!

    The ideal and material worlds are in the state of constant collision… Consequently, riots and rebellions are manifestations of this everlasting conflict…
    “Oh Louise,” he exclaimed, “that is why it’s so important that we bring to India a civilization of the heart, and not only to India but to the whole world… rather than this sordid materialism. Only then will we have a chance of living together in harmony. Will there even be classes and races on that golden day in the future? No! For we shall all be brothers working not to take advantage of each other but for each other’s good!”

    God placed Adam and Eve in the paradise offering them an ideal existence in an ideal world… And the Serpent seduced them to eat a forbidden fruit so they would know the temptations of a material world…
    And J.G. Farrell is capable to portray even the darkest moments of the story without losing his sharp and intelligent irony…
    They were glad of prayers. They felt that the more prayers they heard the better. But they became a little impatient as the Padre rambled on about Sin. What he said was true, no doubt, but they had the enemy to think of… It was rather like having someone keep asking you the time when your house is on fire. They found it hard to give him their whole attention.

    However high may one’s ideals be but without material things, one just will die…
    “All our actions and intentions are futile unless animated by warmth of feeling. Without love everything is a desert. Even Justice, Science, and Respectability.”

    Only the equilibrium of the ideal and the material can bring harmony. A fictionalized account of the Indian Mutiny (1857), as the British call it, or the First War of Independence, as it's known in India. I agree with my GR friend Mark Monday who felt there was insufficient adventure here. We don't get any great battlefield set pieces, or much in the line of guerrilla warfare either. Instead, the story focuses on a relatively small group of twenty or so British subjects within the government compound of Lucknow, disguised here as Krishnapur, and how they fend off the attacking Muslim sepoys until relieved by their fellow occupying nationals.

    The book is a pleasure read. I understand Farrell wanted to emphasize the claustrophobic isolation of the Residency, and how that strain told over time on the everthinning inhabitants. But to do that he felt he had to ignore the native POV, and that was something I missed keenly as a reader. Granted, the book is what it is. I don't want to say that Farrell should have written some other book.

    The novel is anticolonial in the best sense, not at all in a hectoring or strident fashion. Author Farrell shows us why the imperialist mindset was wrong from the start by way of so many actions and images. One being the materialistspiritualist dichotomy which is an ongoing theme throughout the novel. The Great Exhibition of 1851 serves as the embodiment of the materialist side. We know the tide has turned against expansionist imperialism when the Collector, earlier such a great fan of the Exhibition, comes to the conclusion that
    He, too, [had] suffered from an occasionally enlightening vision which came to him from the dim past and which he must have suppressed at the time . . . The extraordinary array of chains and fetters, manacles and shackles exhibited by Birmingham for export to America's slave states, for instance . . . Why had he not thought more about such exhibits? Well, he had never pretended that science and industry were good in themselves, of course . . . They still had to be used correctly. All the same he should have thought a great deal more about what lay behind the exhibits.


    Of course, the view that science was and is good in itself was exactly the view that the Collector espoused before the siege opened his eyes. Recommended for all, but especially lovers of the historical novel."/>
  • Hardcover
  • 374 pages
  • The Siege of Krishnapur
  • J.G. Farrell
  • English
  • 05 April 2019
  • 9780297858829

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *