Vous êtes ici : Accueil / Littérature / Littérature britannique et irlandaise / Fiche de lecture : «Arthur and George», Julian Barnes

Fiche de lecture : «Arthur and George», Julian Barnes

Par Thibaud Harrois : Elève stagiaire - ENS de Lyon
Publié par Clifford Armion le 07/05/2008

Activer le mode zen

The novel is based on an actual story, known as the "Great Wyrley Outrages". At the end of the 19th century, George Edalji, a solicitor from Great Wyrley, a village near Birmingham, was wrongly found guilty of slaying a number of farm animals. He was sentenced to seven years in jail. In 1906, Edalji was released but he was not pardoned. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the famous author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, was involved in the case. Indeed, he tried to prove the man's innocence and was at the source of what was considered as an English Dreyfus Case.
Arthur & George is one of Julian Barnes's most recent novel. Julian Barnes is famous for such novels as Flaubert's Parrot, A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters or England, England. Julian Barnes also published a collection of stories: Cross Channel, and essays in Something to Declare. He wrote a number of crime stories under the pseudonym of Dan Kavanagh. Arthur & George was published in 2005 and was shortlisted for the 2005 Man Booker Prize, a prestigious literary prize. It was judged by the critic as one of, if not the best novel written by Julian Barnes so far.

Arthur & George is a novel which deals with identity and race. Neither Arthur nor George are complete Englishmen (both have at least one Scottish parent and George is of Parsee origin), but they revealed the mentality of the British society at the time. When I read the novel, I felt the heaviness of prejudice, the increasing tension which is lain on George Edalji and his family and I could not help feeling bitterness when he was found guilty of a crime he had not committed. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's passion for justice and his confidence in the fact that the truth will win out out thanks to him is very exciting. The plot is well led; there is suspense and the first two parts of the novel are quite thrilling. However, there are some aspects of the plot which were less engaging. The emphasis laid upon Sir Arthur's love affairs, the death of his first wife and his second wedding with Jean, is exaggerated. The end of the second part is even quite heavy, as are the passages devoted to Sir Arthur's faith in spiritism.  Nonetheless Barnes manages to keep the attention of the reader until the end. His style is simple, not over-elaborated, and the language is easy to understand. It is interesting to notice that every quotation from letters, newspapers, government reports, proceedings in Parliament, and the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is genuine. This gives a strong feeling of reality to the plot. As for the characters, they are complex and steer in many different feelings, showing the depth of the roots of some of the problems and questions which are still very vivid in societies today, such as racism, justice, identity and integration. The way the Edalji Case was perceived and treated by the English public opinion, the Home Office and by Sir Arthur shows the complexity of society at the time but is also revelatory as to our own society, a century after the events.

Thibaud Harrois

Julian Barnes, Arthur & George, Arrow/Vinitage, 2005


Pour citer cette ressource :

Thibaud Harrois, "Fiche de lecture : «Arthur and George», Julian Barnes", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), mai 2008. Consulté le 21/05/2024. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/litterature/litterature-britannique/fiche-de-lecture-arthur-and-george-julian-barnes