The Siege of Krishnapur
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The Siege of Krishnapur (Empire Trilogy #2)

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  2,602 ratings  ·  297 reviews
The Siege of Krishnapur is a modern classic of narrative excitement that also digs deep to explore some fundamental questions of civilisation and life.
Paperback, 375 pages
Published 1993 by Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd ) (first published 1973)
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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...more
mark monday
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 old-fashioned adventure in what was a tale of a very bloody and very lengthy siege. perhaps it was the constantly ironic and semi-comic 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...more
I consider myself lucky that I ended up reading this book after the other two in Farrell's empire trilogy, Troubles and The Singapore Grip. Farrell captured me when I picked up Troubles on a free table at my old Job. It was a supremely clever book, and I couldn't wait to find more by the author. The Singapore Grip was compelling as well, but seemed unwieldy. I don't thing Farrell had complete control of the plot and message, and the book suffers from the lack of direction. Perhaps it was the pre...more
You know those books that you think you know even before you read them. Those books that seem to strike those happy chords in your heart and call out to be your bosom buddies based on nothing more than an impression of their cover? That's how Krishnapur and I were for those months it sat on my shelf before I got around to it. Yet when I recently got around to actually cracking the spine on this Booker winner, I found that I had no clue what I was in store for.

Rather than a brutal retelling of co...more
So, so good. Plotwise, it's kind of Camus' The Plague meets Gunga Din or something -- Brits end up holed up in the administrator's residence in a remote Indian town during the Sepoy mutiny, and you get to see everyone's personality under pressure. It seems to me that I have read a lot of books about groups of people trapped somewhere with the food running out and the pressure on, and what becomes of them -- so, it's not very original on that level, but the people themselves are fascinating, the...more
This book totally fooled me - I thought it was written ages ago in times gone by, days of yore etc. but nope, JG Farrell rattled it out in the 1970s. Very tricksy in a EM Forster representation of Brits in a colonial setting kind of way.

You might want to keep a cup of tea handy or perhaps a G & T as you will want something to dunk this book in - it can be a little dry . The petty tribulations of life in colonial India are really brought to the fore with delicate lay-dees overcome by heat/ bo...more
Sandy Tjan
In The Siege of Krishnapur, J.G. Farrell exposes colonialism as what it really was: a Victorian folly riddled with hypocrisy and exploitation, a fact that gradually became apparent during the Great Mutiny of 1857. The various characters holed up inside the Company’s Residency in Krishnapur each represent the different faces of the British colonialism: the Collector, a conscientious bureaucrat whose mission is to bring Western science and civilization (as exemplified by the Great Exhibition of 18...more
Quinn Slobodian
It's Madame Bovary meets The Dawn of the Dead. The backdrop is a British outpost during the 1857 Indian Rebellion, or "Great Mutiny", of Indian soldiers against their British leaders which left tens of thousands dead in fighting and retribution and led to the formal annexation of India into the British Empire. The besieged outpost acts as the shopping mall in the zombie movie. With a set number of characters forced to interact with one another under steadily deteriorating living conditions, we w...more
Farrell was a genius. _Troubles_ had me thinking it, this book confirms it. Watching him juggle the horrifying and the hilarious for over 300 pages is amazing. This is a much more suspenseful, harrowing read than that equally great study of disintegration and the End of Empire. But taken together they're a wonder. (I took some time off after Troubles, knowing I wanted to be able to savor rather than gulp Farrell's other great works. I will, again, now take some time before finishing the trilogy....more
Justin Evans
Towards the end of SoK, the once-sanguine Collector meets the once-romantic Fleury. Fleury asks him about his collection of art; the Collector says that "Culture is a sham. It's a cosmetic painted on life by rich people to conceal its ugliness."

I enjoyed Farrell's 'Troubles,' but something about it was a bit off. In part, it just wasn't as streamlined or controlled as SoK is. I was worried that SoK would end up as unsatisfying as T through the first 100 or so pages. But by the time the Collecto...more
Back in early 1995, I was walking up a path in the Himalayan foothills with an Indian friend. I mentioned that I’d recently read Christopher Hibbert’s fantastic book The Great Mutiny: India 1857 and asked him what his perspective on the Indian Mutiny was. “Oh,” he replied coolly, “You mean the First War of Independence.” I’ve never forgotten that lesson in historical perspective. Farrell gives us another lesson with this remarkable novel.

Farrell’s written a great book here. It deals with the hum...more
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 Grea...more
Great book. So well-written that though you know it's a satire (which comes across without authorial comment), you still end up caring about the characters and their outcome. Also amazing in that much of it is funny (despite the subject matter) with a purpose -- hard to pull off, but he does.

Also well-done are the handling of its themes, such as what is civilization and who gets to decide it, and the notion of superstition within religion. The whole story is a metaphor really; but done so subtl...more
Jun 08, 2008 Karlan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: all readers
This extraordinary novel was selected for the short list of novels which won the Booker prize during the past 40 years. I hadn't read all the books, but I had heard of all except this one. The 1973 winner is the middle title of a trilogy but stands alone easily. It concerns a mutiny in 19th c. India where very Victorian characters endured a terrible siege for months before help arrived. The style is unusual for a modern novel and takes one back to 19th c writing styles. It is exciting, romantic...more
Only an Englishman could write a book about the Western colonial experience as dryly funny, self-critical, non-moralizing and cinematically charged as this. Set during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the fictional siege of a British community in the middle of nowhere turns out to be the perfect backdrop for examining Western prejudices, hypocrisies and self-serving rationalizations, as well as the halting march of human progress. And while there are plenty of interesting discourses on religion, scien...more
Megan Baxter
Yet another book that I liked but didn't love. There were times when I found it hard to go back to - there was never, for me, any drive to see what happened next.

The book takes a curiously meandering approach to the English under siege in Krishnapur. Maybe that's what a siege is like - long days of nothing, followed by attacks, followed by more nothing, all the while slowly running out of food and people.

The Siege of Krishnapur also takes long detours into late-Victorian fads and theories, incl...more
Joyce Lagow
An immediate impression of The Siege of Krishanpur, for which Farrell won the 1973 Man Booker Prize, is that it is a comedy about a rather unlikely topic, the Great Mutiny of sepoys in India in 1857. The topic is treated with great seriousness; the characters are not. The latter are as improbable a set as one can find in a war story.[return:][return:]In the first in what is called the Empire Trilogy, Farrell examines the British colonial community in a remote outpost in India� and finds them, ab...more
Courtney H.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
For all its dramatic action, tone is the real driving force in this novel. A mixture of satire and admiration for characters who whose persona resides somewhere between famous Punch cartoon character Colonel Blimp and Churchill. Though Farrell clearly challenges the myth of British military heroism and global contributions of Brit culture ("Culture is a sham. It's a cosmetic painted on life by rich people to conceal its ugliness," says one character, the alleged 'hero of Krishnapur,' who dismiss...more
Set in India, 1857, during the Great Mutiny, this novel by J. G. Farrell is both a mighty work of historical fiction and a humane study of man. Farrell's ability to create a world filled with flawed but often sympathetic characters sets this novel apart from typical historical fair. Add to that the subtle way he underlays the action with discussion of the effect of science and rationality, represented by the Great Exhibition of 1851 and its' Crystal Palace, on the attitudes of the British in Ind...more
Russell George
I absolutely loved J. G. Farrell’s ‘Troubles’ so was really looking forward to this. But it’s almost like reading the same book. Whilst ‘Troubles’ was constantly surprising and darkly surreal, this is essentially about the same scenario – pompous colonial Brits besieged by majorly pissed off locals – which meant I knew what the author was trying to achieve, and made it feel like he had simply replaced Ireland with India. I’m probably being a bit harsh because I was expecting so much, but the fee...more
Though some sections of this novel were hard to get through, and I was often stumped by antiquated English terms and Indian vocabulary as well as my ignorance of the terrain at the center of the story, I think it is one of the best I have ever read. I was captivated by the different philosophies; the history; and the realism of the characters, events and circumstances. I was fascinated by the evolution and devolution of the characters as they passed through the different stages of their ordeal....more
Alternately hilarious and gut-wrenching, Farrell’s wry humor and powers of description take the air out of the balloon of Colonial Snobbery and Self-Delusion. His stark juxtapositions of the pomposity and lunacy of the English with their brutality and insensitivity create a strange tragic-comic effect: you find yourself laughing at the mental gymnastics of the colonialists bashing their moral codes every which way in order to fit them into some kind of box that excuses their violent suppression...more
Liz Nutting
This book wasn't what I was expecting. That can often be a good thing, but in this case, I was a tad disappointed.

Little by little, I've become fascinated by the history of the British occupation of India. It's one of those fascinations that creeps up on me, bit by bit--a book on mountain climbing peaks my interest in the topography of the Hundu Kush; a favorite mystery writer sets a story during the period of The Great Game, prompting me to finally read Kipling's Kim; trying to understand the...more
This is a very fine book indeed. It is - as the blurb says - both witty and serious, and it's a sort of 'boys' own adventure' too.

Set in 1857 in a remote British outpost of the empire in Hindustan, The Siege of Krishnapur is the story of the defence of the residency when the sepoys rise in revolt. Written from the vantage point of the besieged British, yet sympathetic to the justice of rebellion against their rule, it shows the British at both their best and worst.

Mr Hopkins, the Collector, is...more
Set in India in 1857, the story focuses on the siege of a British (East India Company) outpost. The author has a nice, sardonic, often humorous way of writing. It beings with clueless English persons. They are more or less unaware of Indians, indifferent too them, and foppish. They are concerned with fashion, etiquette, civilization, material progress, and many seem to believe they are bringing these White virtues to the Indians. But, during the siege, some of these English grow and change and...more
In 1857, the Victorian Era of empire building is in its ascendance. The nearly 200 year old British East India Company has long controlled India with its military and administrative presence. Just as they are dealing with China’s efforts to stop the lucrative opium trade the first of India’s rebellions seeking freedom from these Europeon interlopers erupts in the Gangetic Plain. Farrell reveals a world of British privilege besieged by Sepoys, the Indian military that had grown dissatisfied with...more
Darrell Delamaide
J.G. Farrell's epic of the East India Company's rule on the subcontinent and the 1857 mutiny is a compelling action story, but it is above all a savage satire and a novel of ideas. His success at combining these genres into a literate masterpiece won him the Booker Prize in 1973.

Farrell depicts in biting detail the fatuousness of British rule in India as the colonialists preserved their Victorian preoccupations in a fundamentally hostile environment. They were largely clueless -- as Farrell's pr...more

Farrell is rapidly becoming my favourite author. This is the second installment of the 'Empire Trilogy', 'Troubles' being the first, and 'Singapore Grip' being the last. The series examines the decline of the British Empire, this based during the Great Indian mutiny of 1854. In the enclave of Krishnapur, surrounded by angry mutinous Sepoy soldiers, a small force of British colonials, soldiers, their wives and relatives, loyal natives, Shiekhs, and some other strange characters eke out an existan...more
Victor Carson
This novel, which won a Booker Prize for Fiction in the 1970's, became available recently in Kindle format at a very reasonable price. The novel describes the siege of a fictional small British outpost in India during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. At that time, India was effectively ruled by the British East India Company. The sepoys were Indian soldiers led by British officers.

"The mutiny, when it erupted, shocked the British, particularly “Cawnpore” (Kanpur), as it was remembered by the British f...more
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NYRB Classics: The Siege of Krishnapur, by J.G. Farrell 1 2 Oct 30, 2013 06:03PM  
historical accuracy 1 20 Dec 11, 2012 02:53PM  
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James Gordon Farrell (25 January 1935 – 11 August 1979), 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....more
More about J.G. Farrell...
Troubles The Singapore Grip The Hill Station The Empire Trilogy: The Siege of Krishnapur, Troubles, and The Singapore Grip A Girl In The Head

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“Why do people insist on defending their ideas and opinions with such ferocity, as if defending honour itself? What could be easier to change than an idea?” 9 likes
“We look on past ages with condescension, as a mere preparation for us....but what if we are a mere after-glow of them?” 6 likes
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