Art and Representation: A Comparative Study of George Orwell and Albert Camus on their Literary Works

By Miho Takashima.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

In Japan, there is an old proverb that goes: "井の中の蛙大海を知らず" which is literally translated as "a frog in a well knows not what the ocean is like," implying a persong who has no interest in or has no knowledge of the outside world but only of his own. Similarly, in Montesquieu's Lettres Persanes, the wives of Usbek, a Persian traveller, who are confined to seraglio, are not allowed to know any other men besides Usbek, and who are depicted in great contrast with the women in Paris. Deprived of every possiblity of encountering or comparing themselves with "Others", they are at the same time deprived of means of self-detachment, or of self-interrogation. What is suggested by these examples is that without knowing other people, societies or cultures, we cannot be lucid about our own social phenomena or our own selves; that self-knowledge requires prior knowledge of others. This also indicates that our own desire to seek alternative, "other" values outside our milieu in the geographical, social or cultural sense, is deeply rooted in our conscious (or unconscious) desire for self-discovery. In other words, as Swift's Gulliver encounters England and experiences its domestic problems abroad in the lands of Lilliput or Laputa, the more often we transgress the boundaries of our society and become acquainted with dirrerent cultures, the clearer we come to see the culture we belong to, returning eventually to seek our roots. This question of searching one's own roots, self-exploration by way of "Others" was certainly what concerned George Orwell and Albert Camus, the two European writers who had, either voluntarily or inevitably, lived a sort of marginal lives among "Others", constantly keeping a certain distance from the central prevailing ehos of their age. It seems that both Orwell and Camus went through their respective experiences outside or within their milieus, in which they came to face the "other", different values. By way of these "Others", both writers were eventually led to seek and rediscover their social and cultural origins. In this presentation, therefore, I would like to follow the paths of these two European writers' internal and external quests, seen mainly in the representations in their literary works, which reflect their views not only of the "Other" but of the "Self". I shall also argue the significance in our time, of the lessons we could learn from these writers, by pointing at several features recognized in their "exotic" quests, which seem to be deeply rooted in their fundamental attitudes towards life.

Keywords: George Orwell, Albert Camus, A Comparative Study, Literary Work

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 11, pp.35-44. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 651.562KB).

Dr. Miho Takashima

Lecturer, Department of International Studies, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Meisei University, Tokyo, Japan

Dr Miho Takashima graduated from Sophia University, Tokyo, worked for Banque Nationale de Paris, Tokyo Branch, after which she went to England to pursue M.A. and Ph.D courses on cross-cultural studies at Essex University. Her Ph.D thesis was on a comparative study of George Orwell and Albert Camus. She returned to Japan after having been conferred a doctoral degree, and has been teaching comparative literature and culture at Meisei University, Tokyo since April 2003.


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