The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell

The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell

Author:J.G. Farrell
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Fiction
ISBN: 978-1-59017-373-2
Publisher: New York Review Books

Later in the morning the Collector found himself reclining in a mass of paper documents on the floor of the vernacular record room in the company of the Magistrate and of Fleury, who had been permitted a temporary absence from his post as no attack seemed imminent. A strange contentment had settled over the Collector, perhaps because his senses, usually kept under lock and key, had enjoyed their unaccustomed exercise that morning, perhaps because he was most comfortably supported by the documents. There were salt reports bound in red tape under each elbow; a voluminous, but extraordinarily comfortable correspondence with a local landowner concerning the Permanent Settlement cradled his back at just the right angle, and opium statistics, rising to a mound beneath his knees and cushioning the rest of his body, filled him with a sense of ease verging on narcosis. From outside, a few yards away, came the regular discharge of cannons and mortars; but inside, such was the thickness of the paper padding, one felt very safe indeed. True, daylight appeared in places where holes had been made by round shot in the brickwork, but even that could be looked on as an advantage for it provided ventilation and prevented pockets of bad air forming; elsewhere it had become necessary to burn camphor and brown paper.

The Collector had been discoursing in an objective way on the perplexing question of why, after a hundred years of beneficial rule in Bengal, the natives should have taken it into their heads to return to the anarchy of their ancestors. One or two mistakes, however serious, made by the military in their handling of religious matters, were surely no reason for rejecting a superior culture as a whole. It was as if, after the improving rule of the Romans, the Britons had decided to paint themselves with woad again. “After all, we’re not ogres, even though we don’t marry among the natives or adopt their customs.”

“I must take issue with the expression ‘superior culture’,” said Fleury; but neither of the older men paid any attention to him.

“The great majority of natives have yet to see the first sign of our superior culture,” said the Magistrate. “If they’re lucky they may have seen some red-faced youth from Haileybury or Addiscombe riding by once or twice in their lives.”

(“I say, ‘superior culture’ is a very doubtful proposition, but I think...”)

“Come, come, Tom, think of the system of justice that the Company has brought to India. Even if there were nothing else...”

“This justice is a fiction! In the Krishnapur district we have two magistrates for almost a million people. There are many districts where it’s worse.”

(“Look here, what I think...“)

“Things are not yet perfect, of course,” sighed the Collector. “All the same, I should go so far as to say that in the long run a superior civilization such as ours is irresistible. By combining our advances in science and in morality we have so obviously found the best way of doing things. Truth


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