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The Siege Of Krishnapur Paperback – 1 Jul 1996

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; New Ed edition (1 July 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857994914
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857994919
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 20,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

J.G. Farrell was born in Liverpool in 1935 and spent a good deal of his life abroad, including periods in France and North America, and then settled in London where he wrote most of his novels. In April 1979 he went to live in County Cork where only four months later he was drowned in a fishing accident.

Product Description

Amazon Review

"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 recognise 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 with which 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. --Alix Wilber

Review

"Inspired, funny but ultimately tragic look at colonialism in India. It has an unusual exuberence" -- Mariella Frostrup, INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Mr. J. F. Bargh on 3 Aug. 2009
Format: Paperback
What a brilliant read. Set during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, a time when the country was still administered by the British East India Company, the novel juxtaposes Victorian ideas of progress and civilisation with the horror and inhumanity of an extended siege on a fictional cantonment, Krishnapur. Set in the years after the Great Exhibiton, it contrasts the high-minded pretensions of the town's inhabitants with the reality of humanity at its most desperate to absurd and hilarious effect. With a brilliant cast of characters - from the zealous, heckling Padre to the grim, cynical Magistrate; from the ineffectual romantic Fleury to the stolid, misunderstood Dr McNab - I enjoyed it thoroughly from beginning to end.

While the 'serious' setting might suggest otherwise, the book is extraordinarily gripping, and riddled with grim humour, believable, interesting characters and an admirable insight into the contemporary science and medicine (subjects diverse as the treatment of cholera, phrenology and military tactics are discussed at length, without ever detouring into tedious longeurs). It's cliche, but I genuinely couldn't put the book down; at parts I found myself laughing out loud and shaking my head in disbelief. So realistically is the siege brought to life that you can almost smell the rotting flesh of its victims and hear the crash of the defending cannons. It's easy to see why this was nominated for the Best of Bookers and is held in such high esteem thirty-odd years after its publication, yet I'd recommend it heartily to readers of all levels and abilities.
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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 30 July 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Great Mutiny in 1857 has been a major inspiration for writers of fiction (and non-fiction too off course). Some of those fictional books I've read, though by far not all (has anyone read them all?), but never have I been as impressed by one as by `The siege of Krishnapur'.

This is really a most extraordinary book. I may perhaps not read it as people born and bred in England (to them Krishnapur is probably a household-name and a legendary part of their national history) but in fact this matters little. `The siege of Krishnapur' is much much more than a book about the siege of that particular place. The entire story is told from the point of view of a number of the English residents, while the sepoys are merely present as a part of the setting (almost as the summer heat, the monsoon rains, the bugs, ...). And it is in the description of these characters and their thoughts and feelings that this book surpasses all others I've read. Mr. Hopkins (the Collector), Mr. Willoughby (the Magistrate), George Fleury, Harry Dunstable, the Padre, and many more, will impress themselves upon you as if you know them in the flesh.

Their near-sighted views of most everything (the `civilizing' influence of British rule over India and science's progress, the roles of men versus women), their stubborn adherence to `proper' conduct and society's rules and regulations ever after 3 months of siege, the proverbial British phlegm in the face of desperate odds, it is all described with such an incomparable style and vocabulary to make these people both tragic, heroic, and - oddest perhaps of all - at times extremely humorous.

One of the best books I've read in years.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Reader in Tokyo on 4 Dec. 2008
Format: Paperback
There was much here to enjoy: the imaginative recreation of the British in India, their ways of thinking and behavior. The thrill of the action, which began picking up appreciably one-quarter of the way into the book. The author's skilled use of detail, to the extent that the reader could see, smell and hear what went on. The varied cast of characters with their individual voices and concerns. The impact of the siege on customs and proprieties. The ironies throughout, both subtle and unsubtle. The blindness of so many of the characters, hemmed in by narrow-minded conventions. And one character's progression from a firm belief in the superiority of European civilization and the perfection of science and morality toward skepticism and tolerance, after a loss of certitude.

The author was trying in part to show that a nation "does not create itself according to its best ideas, but is shaped by other forces, of which it has little knowledge." But surely the best ideas also help shape a nation as it evolves, and some progress has been achieved after all? And why should a belief in the best of what European civilization has contributed be thrown over because of what was done in India? Still, there was much in this novel to enjoy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Officer Dibble VINE VOICE on 8 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
The Cassandra-like 'Collector' has been predicting the Indian Mutiny and the novel guides you through the events surrounding one military encounter at this isolated outpost of the Empire.

Played against this narrative is the emergence of 'the scientific way of looking at things' exemplified by the Collector's 'bible', his book 'The Spirit of Science Conquers Ignorance and Prejudice'. This is combined with his love of the 'new' output from the 1851 Great Exhibition with items ranging from the wonderfully named 'gorse bruiser' to the more widely-known daguerreotype.

This aspect is developed by the protracted feud between the two medical men who are dealing with the proliferation of wounded and ill defenders. One favours 'ignorance and prejudice' to treat cholera victims, the other 'science and reason', loosely based on Dr John Snow's research in 1854 Soho.

The main narrative features the transformation of the lead character from poetic langour to man of action. Very well-researched, very well written, very laudable but never grabbed me by the throat.
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