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ISSN 1511-3701

Home / Regular Issue / JTAS Vol. 30 (3) Sep. 2022 / JSSH-8268-2021


Art and Real Life: Trauma and Reconciliation in The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

Sheat Fun Chow, Sarena Abdullah and Yuen Beng Lee

Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science, Volume 30, Issue 3, September 2022


Keywords: Art, memories, monuments, trauma

Published on: 6 September 2022

This essay discusses the employment of selected art forms and their effectiveness in portraying trauma and reconciliation in Tan Twan Eng’s novel, The Garden of Evening Mists ,(2012), employing the concepts of trauma by Caruth (1996), focusing on the inadequacy of language to articulate trauma. The trauma model features most prominently by Caruth argues that traumatic events are never known directly. Any knowledge of these past events is only a form of reproduction of the original. Therefore, trauma is a ‘paradoxical experience;’ what is most traumatic is that which does not appear in conscious memory— this inability to know challenges the reliability of language to represent the full extent of trauma. However, Tan’s novel shows that the problem of representing trauma can be countered in forms of art that function as a medium to convey and release silenced trauma. While trauma escapes language, personal memories become collective memories when commemorated in art forms. Letting go of the past is achieved by bringing it to the present in art forms. Tan’s work significantly adds to the analysis of trauma in literary works. By employing the dominant tropes of Japanese art forms in the novel, Tan employs strategies that demonstrate that literature and art can narrate silenced experiences and traumatic historical events and escapes articulation.

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ISSN 1511-3701

e-ISSN 2231-8542

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