0115 | The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

Context: Finished this in the taxi from my mum’s in Portugal to the railway station.

REVIEW
It’s quite something to write a novel in a language foreign to your own. But to even attempt to write one in a foreign language that is based on elements of culture that are foreign to your own is sheer folly. That is unless you are a genius like Ishiguro.

Such a brilliantly written novel. It impressed me on so many levels. Not since Bellow’s Herzog have I felt so intimately acquainted with a character’s mind. And the atmosphere that Ishiguro creates as a result of the style he adopts is so evocative you feel as if you yourself are sitting with Mr Stevens as he remenisces about life as a top butler in the interlude between the world wars.

I’ve seen the film and that too is excellent. But the novel is so worth a read because of the beautiful style that Ishiguro writes. As he writes he composes the mind of Mr Stevens exquisitely and I think, in praising him for his ability here, it is important that Ishiguro is Japanese.

No other nation that I know well respects the qualities of dignity as much as the Japanese. And, after six years in the country, I do know them pretty well. The qualities that are required by a butler like Mr Stevens are a prerequisite for integrating into Japanese society. Dignity, self-control, reserve and tact are all instilled into Japanese people from birth. Quite how they liked me I’m not sure! Maybe they were just being polite.

In any case, it made for an interesting political and social sketch of an element of British society that I never saw. Ishiguro has brought it to life for us all to see.

FIRST LINE
It seems increasingly likely that I really will undertake the expedition that has been preoccupying my imagination now for some days.

CLOSING LINE
I should hope then, that by the time of my employer’s return, I shall be in a position to pleasantly surprise him.

RATING:
rubbish | poor | mediocre | okay | good | very good | excellent | superb

  • kat August 1, 2008, 9:01 pm

    I’m excited to read this book.
    Just wanted to point out that Ishiguro is actually British. He was born in Japan, but moved to the UK when he was 6 and had very little familiarity with Japan or Japanese writers when he started writing novels.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazuo_Ishiguro

    Reply
  • Arukiyomi August 1, 2008, 11:34 pm

    ah yes, you are right. I suppose he would have grown up with a lot of familiarity with Japan too though. I note that he worked as a grouse beater for the queen mother of all people before he went to uni. That may be when he encountered the kind of characters that he based the butler Mr Stevens on. Thanks for hte comment. Hope you enjoy the book.

    Reply
  • mee August 2, 2008, 2:09 am

    was gonna point out about the fact that he was British too, until I saw the first comment 🙂

    I have the book on my shelf. Will have to read it soon! I like Ishiguro’s books so far (I’ve read 2).

    Reply
  • Jenny August 24, 2008, 10:56 am

    Thanks for the recommendation as I was in a dilemma of sorts not knowing what to take down off the shelf to start as my next read. I have not read Ishiguro previously although I do have his most recent novel ‘Never Let Me Go’ unread also.
    Love your site and I visit often to catch up on what you have been reading 🙂

    Reply

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