Julian Barnes’ Arthur & George (2005) critiques the nationalistic particularism of English identity and offers the possibility of reconfiguring Englishness. An institutionalized reading of the novel would draw the reader’s attention to the issues of racism and miscarriages of legal justice, and most reviews conform to these readerly expectations. I would argue that this novel works on the deconstruction of the total and totalized English identity, and this deconstruction is coupled with a cosmopolitan articulation of Englishness to facilitate ethical relation and solidarity between the two “unofficial Englishmen”: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and George Edalji. The deconstruction of the English identity does not discredit the value of national identity, but it turns away from a totalized national identity. In Postcolonial Melancholia, Paul Gilroy asks, “ . . . what critical perspectives might nurture the ability and the desire to live with difference on an increasingly divided but also convergent planet?” (3). A cosmopolitan articulation of national identity could be a response to Gilroy’s question, as it will shift the focus of the discussion on Englishness from the actual—the entrenched, static and prejudiced national identity, to the possible—the ethical engagement, and the productive relatedness of existent differences in the singularity of each subject. In Arthur & George, differences do not constitute the obstacle between the two main characters, but rather the very reason for Arthur to reach out toward George.
KEY WORDS: Englishness, Julian Barnes, Arthur & George, ethical relation, cosmopolitanism