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Farrell, J(ames) G(ordon)

british singapore comic novel

(Anglo-Irish, 1935–79)

Born in Liverpool, Farrell was educated at Brasenose College, Oxford, and travelled widely before becoming a writer in the early 1960s. Start with The Lung (1965), which draws on his experiences of polio in its blackly comic narrative of Martin Sands. Formerly a well-to-do hedonist, his confinement to an iron lung because of polio allows him to take stock of his life. Farrell is best known for a trilogy of novels based on critical episodes in the history of the British empire. The books combine moral and historical seriousness with pervasive irony and a comic emphasis on the bizarre and absurd. The first part, Troubles (1970), takes place in rural Ireland in 1919 amid the crumbling grandeur of the Majestic Hotel, which symbolizes the decay of Anglo-Irish rule. The building is finally destroyed by fire after fighting between British forces and Sinn Fein rebels. Based on events during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, The Siege of Krishnapur (1973, Booker Prizewinner) follows. The novel traces the shifts in values among a British garrison enduring the privations of a three-month siege. In The Singapore Grip (1979), considered his finest work, the trilogy concludes with the chaos of attempted defence and subsequent retreat as Singapore collapses to the Japanese assault in 1942. Major Brendan Archer, a bastion of chivalrous courtesy who looms large in Troubles, reappears in the novel to exemplify the outmoded dignities of empire.

Evelyn Waugh, John Masters, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala  DH

Farrell, M. J. [next] [back] Farah, Nuruddin

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