Thursday, March 25, 2010

Literary Bite: The Siege of Krishnapur

I apologize for the absence of a Literary Bite last week. I blame it on my houseguests – and the fact that some books just take more than one week to read.

Anywho, here it is now:

The Siege of Krishnapur was published in 1973 by a British author, J.G. Farrell, and is considered a classic in the genre of “Colonial Fiction.”

This is the type of book that you study. You can enjoyed The Siege of Krishnapur for its surface value as a story of a British outpost in the “Queen’s India,” but there is much more to it than that. I’m sure that countless essays have been written about this book and its commentary on Victorian England, colonialism, feminism, race relations, etc.

But I am no longer in the analytical-essay-writing phase of my life, and I certainly won’t subject you to a treatise on Farrell’s social commentary and use of irony.

Let’s just say that overall I like the book. It’s very similar to Burmese Days by Goerge Orwell – tea-sipping, jolly good old British in India maintaining their social graces in the face of an attacked by the natives, heat, disease and death. The book is an ironic social commentary, but the characters are very well-developed as individuals.

I didn't expect to like it, but I did! So I will recommend this book, but with some reservations. It does drag in parts. Sometimes Farrell gets sidetracked from the story and goes off on seemingly irrelevant tangents. And because I cannot really picture the scene of the siege, the long descriptions of the battle can become tedious.

But it is recognized as an exemplary piece of literature. The Siege of Krishnapur won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1973, and was recognized again in 2008 (along with 5 other books) in the Best of the Booker Awards.

Also, I do not usually read the introductions to books, but for some reason this time I did. The introduction, by Pankaj Mishra, is very well-written and gives political, literary, and social context to the book.

But spoiler alert! The introduction gives away the ending! Not that the book is a mystery or anything…I was just surprised to know before I started how it would end. So I suggest you read the introduction at some point. When depends on your priorities. If you want to understand the context and literary value of the story, read it first. If you would rather form your own opinions and then see what someone else has to say when you’re through, read the Introduction at the end. And if you find yourself in the middle of the book, cursing EatRunRead for recommending such an odd piece of literature, 1) remember that you love me and I would never steer you wrong, and 2) read the Introduction before you continue with the book.

More Stuff:

- Summary

- Author Biography

- Review

- A Reading Guide including chapter summaries and character lists