Monday, 27 June 2011

The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)

I read this on a recommendation from a teacher who is a big fan of Kazuo Ishiguro's work.  It is very verbose but the language is not antiquated and is not hard to read. It is a well-known post-war British novel, and won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 1989. Although it is set in Britain, with the main character being a bona fide butler, the author is Japanese but his nationality is not evident in his writing. To quote Ishiguro himself "If I wrote under a pseudonym and got somebody else to pose for my jacket photographs, I'm sure nobody would think of saying, 'This guy reminds me of that Japanese writer.' "

I did like it, and though the main character is certainly unlike any I have encountered before, I can't say I would recommend someone else to read it.

I just watched the trailer for the 1993 movie adaptation and I am definitely going to hire out a copy.

This is the story of a British butler called Stevens who is told by his new master to explore the countryside and whilst travelling remurates on his life. Before the war Stevens held a prestigious position in a society household with a large staff. His master was Lord Darlington, who was an important political figure. When Lord Darlington dies, an American gentleman buys Darlington Hall and Stevens comes as a package deal. The new master Mr Farraday, finds the idea of a butler a great novelty. But during attempts at banter, when Stevens remains his usual aloof self, Farraday is disheartened. He tells Stevens to go on a trip to see the countryside. Stevens in truth practises hard to find witticisms to fulfil his new master's expectations. He is finding his position hard as he feels he gave everything he had to Lord Darlington who Stevens believed was a great man, and is saddened to realise Darlington's aspirations although good-hearted were fruitless. His aloofness stops him form making emotional connections and especially impedes on his possible relationship with the once-housekeeper Miss Kenton. On his countryside tour his goal is to meet up with Miss Kenton (who is now married and becoming a grandmother)  and enquire as to whether she would like her previous position back.

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