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The Siege of Krishnapur

(Empire Trilogy #2)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  5,964 ratings  ·  534 reviews
India, 1857--the year of the Great Mutiny, when Muslim soldiers turned in bloody rebellion on their British overlords. This time of convulsion is the subject of J. G. Farrell's The Siege of Krishnapur, widely considered one of the finest British novels of the last fifty years.

Farrell's story is set in an isolated Victorian outpost on the subcontinent. Rumors of strife
Paperback, 344 pages
Published April 1st 2004 by New York Review of Books (first published 1973)
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Robert Irish In terms of order of writing, this is the middle one (Troubles, 1970; Singapore Grip, 1978). Because they're dealing with such different stories, I…moreIn terms of order of writing, this is the middle one (Troubles, 1970; Singapore Grip, 1978). Because they're dealing with such different stories, I don't think it matters which you read first. They're a "trilogy" in theme.(less)
Sharon Pribble The pregnant woman in "Siege" is Mrs. Wright, she does not appear in "Troubles." There are many references to India in "Troubles," but, doing a search…moreThe pregnant woman in "Siege" is Mrs. Wright, she does not appear in "Troubles." There are many references to India in "Troubles," but, doing a search on my Kindle books, I could not find any character who appears in both books. There isn't a character named Rappoport in "Siege."(less)

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Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
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).
Vit Babenco
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 20-ce, uk
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
We look on past ages with condescension, as a mere preparation for us....but what if we are a mere after-glow 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 well-crafted British characters battling their own civilisational
Paul Bryant
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
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 ...more
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 kind-hearted 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 Anglo-centric. 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
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
Feb 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: indian-novels
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 ...more
Apr 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I 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
Lark Benobi
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: no one?
My main admiration for this novel is that it managed to be both masterfully written and really awful at the same time.

Farrell makes his British characters pay and pay and pay for the crimes of colonization, in brutally absurd scenes. Characters are spared no degradation and yet they never lose their bone-headed, obstinate British-ness, or the certainty of their superiority. Ha, ha.

This novel's peculiar balance between: 1) "wow, this is written so well" with 2) "my god, this is making me sick"
Nov 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Oct 23, 2012 marked it as aborted-efforts
So last night my baby grabbed this book off my nightstand where it's been moldering for a month and ran around the room with it, shrieking, until the cover was crumpled and the bookmark had fallen out and got stomped on the floor.

I didn't stop her and reclaim the book until I was sure that she'd lost my place.

I wanted to join the worldly, intelligent ranks of Mary McCarthy and everyone else who's ever picked up The Siege of Krishnapur but now that the bookmark's been removed I'm throwing in the
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
Later, while he was drinking tea at the table in his bedroom with three young subalterns from Captainganj a succession of musket balls came through the winder, attracted by the oil-lamp . . . one, two, three and then a fourth, one after another. The officers dived smartly under the table, leaving the Collector to drink his tea alone. After a while they
re-emerged smiling sheepishly, deeply impressed by the Collector’s sang-froid. Realizing that he had forgotten to sweeten his tea, the Collector
K.D. Absolutely
Oct 20, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Man Booker 1973
Definitely well-written, a joy to read and deserving of its Booker Prize in 1973. It is the story of a siege that according to Wiki was part of the Indian Rebellion in 1857 against British colonizers in India. In that siege, a small group of British people had to fend for themselves in a small community (that reminded me of a Jewish ghetto) for more than a month so when they finally got out, they were like, or even worse, than the Indians that they used to look down or ridicule as colonizers.

Apr 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Having just read a very light British novel which brought to mind old movies and romantic novels of eras past, I Googled through lists of fiction where the setting is India. Well, by George, if I didn't find a different sort of novel altogether and I couldn't resist adding it to my "Read" bookshelf, even though that reading took place an era ago in itself.

"The Siege of Krishnapur" came to me via my mother-in-law, (until 1994), the daughter of Englishman who had begun his adulthood seeking his
Jul 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1001-books
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/
Aug 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Megan Baxter
Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Jul 12, 2011 rated it liked it
J.G. Farrell's novel of the Indian Mutiny as seen from the inside; the story concerns the British trapped in a siege of their compound by their own former Indian Army members or sepoys. As the entitled representatives of the decades-old British Raj, their defense is secondary to the sheer stunned disbelief that the native population should ever even consider rising up.

The author weaves a few parallel threads here, making his little instant-dystopia the direct result of the injustice of autocracy
Grace 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 ...more
Justin Evans
Oct 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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
May 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, library, india, raj
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 ...more
Mar 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
For all its dramatic action, tone is the real driving force in this novel. A mixture of satire and admiration for characters 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 dismisses ...more
Jun 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: booker
The Siege of Krishnapore is set around the Sepoy mutiny of 1857 in a fictional town of Krishnapur. The British are confounded how the natives can reject civilisation and loftier thinking (and religion) which tells them all is not well in their colonial exploits. The book is a satirical take that focus on the colonialist/civilisation ideas prevalent at the time through an assortment of characters who are thrown in together as the natives hold them under siege.

The book plays out like a movie
Elizabeth (Alaska)
The Siege of Krishnapur was a real event, though Farrell's superbly-drawn characters are fictional. Each of his named characters has a different and unique responsibility in this British outpost in 1857 colonial India.

I consider that I have a decent comprehension and vocabulary - better than some, not as as good as others. I more or less knew the definition of siege. But it's the sort of word that, frankly, I had not spent a lot of time mulling over and picturing it's meaning in a real world
Quinn Slobodian
Nov 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
The second book in the "Empire Trilogy" and a very good read in it's own right. I'm really glad that I found this author and trilogy of novels. Not quite as fascinating or captivating as the very excellent "Troubles" but still an excellent story about a time in history that I knew very little about.
I really enjoy the overall style and delivery of this author, well worth the time and another gem from the New York Review of Books Classics list.
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Reading 1001: The Siege of Krishnapur - Farrell 1 9 May 30, 2018 04:50AM  
historical accuracy 3 41 Oct 22, 2014 08:00AM  
NYRB Classics: The Siege of Krishnapur, by J.G. Farrell 1 9 Oct 30, 2013 06:03PM  

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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 ...more

Other books in the series

Empire Trilogy (3 books)
  • Troubles
  • The Singapore Grip
“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?” 26 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?” 20 likes
More quotes…