The Siege of Krishnapur

Patty Osborne

J. G. Farrell’s version of a prison is the British Residency in the fictional Krishnapur. There a group of ex-pats take shelter when Indian peasant soldiers turn on their British colonizers and slaughter four hundred of them in a nearby settlement.

The Siege of Krishnapur (New York Review of Books), first published in 1973 and recently reprinted, is Farrell’s very funny take on colonialism and the British class system: outside the residency, insurgents shoot and kill anything that moves; inside, rituals of tea time and birthday parties carry on. The defence of the residency is led by two young men, Harry and Fleury, who have no military defence experience but who have read enough to know what soldiers are supposed to do, and who eventually begin to think that they really are fierce fighters.

Once we realize that neither Harry nor Fleury is going to be killed despite the mayhem, we can enjoy a good laugh at their expense.

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