Monday, April 1, 2013

The colonizer's consciousness

I'm reading The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell. The novel tells the story of an 1857 uprising in India against the British occupiers. It's told entirely from the point of view, in the voice, of those British occupiers--but in a good way! That is, this is a deeply accomplished, subtly effected satire aimed dead-on against the colonialists, exposing their racism, ethnocentrism, and self-serving endless justifications for imperialism.

I may write more about it once I've finished reading the book. In the meantime I've got to give you this. It's from roughly the middle of the novel, a single paragraph with which Farrell manages to pretty much say it all about the brutality, callousness and deeply racist consciousness of the colonialists.
A few yards away, still in the shadow of the church, was another collection of dogs, uncivilized ones this time and dreadful to behold. In spite of the years he had spent in the East the Collector had never managed to get used to the appearance of the pariah dogs. Hideously thin, fur eaten away by mange to the raw skin, endlessly and uselessly scratching, timorous, vicious, and very often half crippled, they seemed like a parody of what Nature had intended. He had once, as it happened, on landing for the first time at Garden Reach in Calcutta, had the same thought about the human beggars who swarmed at the landing-stage; they, too, had seemed a parody. Yet when the Collector piously gave to the poor, it was to the English poor, by a fixed arrangement with his agent in London; he had accepted that the poverty of India was beyond redemption. The humans he had got used to, in time ... the dogs never.