Friday, October 6, 2017

Kazuo Ishiguro wins the Nobel Prize in Literature.

"The British author Kazuo Ishiguro said he was both honoured and “taken completely by surprise” after he was named this year’s winner of the 2017 Nobel prize in literature, even initially wondering if the announcement was a case of “fake news”.
Ishiguro, author of novels including The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, was praised by the Swedish Academy for novels which “uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world” and were driven by a “great emotional force”.

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Spoiler Alert: This review reveals the entire plot of the story.

Kazuo Ishiguro is a Japanese writer, born in 1954 in Nagasaki. Ishiguro’s family immigrated to London later, where he spent his childhood. His first two books A Pale View of Hills (1982) and An Artist of the Floating World (1986) won The Winifred Holtby Prize and The White Bread Book of the Year awards respectively. The Remains of the Day, his third novel won him the Booker Prize in 1988.

I happened to read The Remains of The Day some years back suggested by one of my friends. Anyone who can enjoy P. G Wodehouse and considers him as a literary genius, anyone who feels after reading a book by Wodehouse, that the gloom is lifted up after a tiring day, can very well enjoy Ishiguro’s writings. I could always connect these two writers in many ways. The Remains of the Day is a hangover cure. After going through the news clippings about Ishiguro winning the Nobel for literature this year, I thought of writing about the book.

I browsed through my bookshelf and was amazed to see how long since I have read it, as the pages have turned yellowish. The Remains of the Day is an aristocratic English novel setup in pre-World War II.   Ishiguro’s novel is a haunting invocation of life amidst the wars in a Great English House. The book talks about lost love and causes. It is a study of personality, class and culture. The protagonist and the narrator Stevens is the Head Butler at Darlington Hall. He is a personification or incarnation of a brilliant and perfect English Butler. He is always refined and formal in his talks and is very meticulous in whatever job he does. His absolute loyalty is towards Lord Darlington and he conceals his true feelings from everyone. Stevens’s father was also a butler and he believes him as the most successful man he has ever seen. While reading the book we come to know that Stevens’s role model was his father. After Lord Darlington’s death, the house came under the ownership of Mr Farraday. Unlike Darlington, Farrady is an American and is a very sociable person. However, Stevens fails to interact with him in an informal way which he is not used to.

Stevens decides to take a six-day road trip to West Country London. He sets on this trip to meet Miss Kenton. She used to work for the Darlington House. However, Miss Kenton left the job to get married. Later Stevens receives a letter from Miss Kenton, which gives a hint that her marriage is failing and would like to return to her work in the Darlington House. The story is all about Stevens recalling his job under Lord Darlington. It has been revealed in the story later that, Lord Darlington was a sympathizer of the Nazi agenda before World War II. Darlington tried to foster ties between Great Britain and Germany. His name is besmirched through this act eventually.

Stevens worked with Miss Kenton for seven years. They had a difference of opinion regarding work. Nevertheless, Stevens later realize that he had romantic feelings for Kenton though he never expressed his feelings towards her.  He does absolutely nothing to change the course of the events. Towards the end of the novel, Kenton confesses to Stevens that their marriage would have changed things better for her. As taken from the book:

'What a terrible mistake I've made with my life.' And you get to thinking about a different life, a better life you might have had. For instance, I get to thinking about a life I may have had with you, Mr. Stevens. And I suppose that's when I get angry about some trivial little thing and leave. But each time I do, I realize before long—my rightful place is with my husband. After all, there's no turning back the clock now. One can't be forever dwelling on what might have been".

Day Six- Evening
Miss Kenton, p.251.

As I felt it, the most touching part of the story is, when Stevens observes the changes in Miss Kenton after years. As taken from the book:

“As we continued subtle changes which the years had wrought on her. For instance, Miss Kenton appeared, somehow, slower. It is possible this was simply the calmness that comes with age, and I did try hard for some time to see it as such. But I could not escape the feeling that what I was really seeing was a weariness with life; the spark which had once made her such a lively, and at times, the volatile person seemed now to have gone."

Day Six - Evening
Stevens, p.245.

Stevens, however, regret about not revealing his love for Kenton. He returns without reacting to her confession and decides to work for his employer as loyal as he can. Commitment to his profession takes his personal life, which he seldom cared. The story ends with his struggle about his failure to accept the fact that Lord Darlington, the man he worked for and lived for is not as perfect and remarkable a person.
Though very devastating and ironic a plot the story covers, it is undoubtedly a technical masterpiece of the great author. The book exposes the concepts of upper-class smugness, society,  and inner struggles of the human mind with much insightfulness. It is certainly a good read for anyone who hides their true inner feelings. 

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Written by

Sreevidya Devanand.

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