Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Troubles was the first of J. G. Farrell’s major novels, following three books in which he had not yet dealt with the subject which was to make his reputation, that of the fall of British imperialism. After this Irish novel, Farrell wrote The Siege of Krishnapur (1973), which won for him the Booker Prize, set in Victorian India at the time of the Sepoy Mutiny. Like Troubles, this novel dramatized a society which could’nt see that it was deteriorating.

The final novel completed before Farrell’s accidental death was The Singapore Grip (1978), in which Singapore’s fall to Japan is seen as yet another loss of empire; Brendan Archer of Troubles reappears in this book. At his death, Farrell left unfinished another nineteenth century Indian novel, which was posthumously published as The Hill Station (1981).

As one of the major writers of the literature of imperialism, Farrell is unique in tone. On a subject which has turned writers such as V. S. Naipaul to gloomy and violent realism, Farrell has preserved a comic touch, partly because his characters have the eccentric quality of traditional English satire and partly because their actions, based on blind certainties, inevitably have consequences which may be hilarious or sad, but which are always ironic. It is this black comedy, applied to the fall of a social system, which is Farrell’s alone.