« A confession | Main | Adult Day Care -- Open Thread »

October 06, 2017


lj, I cannot comment on your theory, having read only one Ishiguro book, When We Were Orphans, which slipped through the net of my inability to read novels, perhaps because I was staying somewhere and had nothing else to read. But that one book was so strange, written in such a weird, stilted tone of voice and mind, that I have never forgotten it (unlike so much of what I have read and then forgotten in later adulthood). I assumed that my unease was because I had fallen out of the stream of literary developments, but I see from various reviews etc that I was not alone, or at least that the style I found so strange was considered by critics (and maybe even by the author) to be unsuccessful in that book if not in others:


If my long exile from the land of literary fiction ever ends, though, The Remains of the Day certainly sounds like a good place to start, since many people consider it to be a masterpiece.

i guess i'll have to try Remains Of The Day. but i tried The Buried Giant and didn't like it a bit. story was boring, characters were boring, the dialogue was awkward and the dialect annoying.

At first I thought for a second that it went to Murakami, then I was ashamed that I had subconsciously lumped them together - is that racist? - while having read neither of them, despite having been urged to read Murakami by an exuberant fan 15 years ago.

My only saving grace is that I have watched "Remains of the Day" like everybody else and that I then found out that Murakami was a favourite and has been for a while now - he's the Roger Deakins of the Nobel Prize for Literature apparently:


not to be too cryptic with the inside jokes:

Roger Deakins has been nominated 13 times for the Oscar for Best Cinematography - he might actually get it this time for the new "Blade Runner"

My only saving grace is that I have watched "Remains of the Day" like everybody else

Nope, not me. It's a bit like my involuntary "no novels" interdiction, I have it (and have had it for years) with movies too (with similar exemptions for some "genre" i.e. scifi etc, albeit I see those via disc, at home). N.B. I do not have agoraphobia!

Although haven't read Ishuguro, I have read (in translation)some Soseki, Dazai, Tanazaki, Kawabata, Mishima, Hayashi, know some about others, and seen a bunch of movies of course, which can't be first person

So I have been thinking of the Japanese I-novel since this post went up and I would be interested in what Ishuguro read. First person confessional is not at all unique to Japan,but with tons and tons of (ironic)self-deprecation and much vicious roman a clef is characteristic. What is particular is that the classic writers above set the norm that anything else was not honest or sincere. Which doesn't mean you don't get other kinds of novels, but they aren't ART. Still get Banana Yoshimoto doing the thing.

Looks to me from reading reviews that Ishuguro started somewhere around there, but has been drifting away. Picked up Floating World, may try it.

From what secondhand knowledge I have, I guess Ishuguro is more typical Nobel material than Murakami. Deeper, more subtle.

The metaphoric representation of political and social themes in the novels is too complicated for me to deal with quickly. In which ways is Kokoro about the decline of Meiji Japan? Hurts the brain.

Good point about first person novels in Japanese literature. The urge to ransack the writer's personal life to figure out what they want to say is something that is common, but I really dislike it, especially when the writer is still living. I have not looked closely at how Japanese critics and reviewers look at this, but my impression is that they tend to stick to formulaic explanations and not look behind them. This pisses foreigners off to no end (Ah, you are from xxx, that's why you like yyy) but it provides a measure of protection to artists.

Still, I'm western, so I end up wondering 'what did he really mean?' This, from

seems telling

“He is very interested in understanding the past, but he is not a Proustian writer – he is not out to redeem the past, he is exploring what you have to forget in order to survive in the first place, as an individual or as a society,”

I thought Remains of the Day was a great novel, but it was elegaic in the way that only Japanese are elegaic, as far as I can see. The notion that Ishiguro is a British author has always seemed preposterous to me -- for someone who sees so clearly how poorly other people understand themselves, he sure seems to understand himself poorly, if you see what I mean. Although I suppose it's true that the whole never-speaking-about-what-is-while-what-is-is-screaming thing is also British . . . .

Also, cleek symbol, Buried Giant is nothing like Remains of the Day, stylewise. (I couldn't read it either.) FWIW.

lj, I thought you might be interested in this, by Ishiguro's friend and first editor:


Such discretion comes naturally. Ish has many theories about the creative process, though he rarely discusses his own work in depth. I have spent hundreds of hours in his company, sitting over his typescripts, but have never, so far as I recall, come close to an in-depth conversation about what he’s up to. Yes, as a songwriter, he revels in the first-person narrative; and yes, there is a quasi-gothic side to his imagination; but that’s about as far as he’ll go. I think he cherishes the mystery of his art, though that will never prevent him from deeply researching his next subject.

Thanks, and good on him.

The comments to this entry are closed.