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Catherine Charlwood

Abstract

This article foregrounds representations of ageing and memory within Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels, particularly Never Let Me Go (2005) and, the less critically considered, The Buried Giant (2015). While criticism and reviews touch upon themes of ageing, loneliness, and loss of bodily function, scholars are yet to reveal either the centrality of this to Ishiguro’s work or how this might speak to real-life questions surrounding ageing. Few readers of Never Let Me Go realise that in writing it Ishiguro’s guiding question was ‘how can I get young people to go through the experience of old people’? The arguments here seek to restore such authorly intentions to prominence.

Ishiguro is more interested in socio-cultural meanings of ageing than biologically impoverished memories: this article examines the shifting relationships Ishiguro presents between memory and age as regards what happens to the ways in which memories are valued, and how people might be valuable (or not) for their memories. Interdisciplinary with age studies and social gerontology, this article demonstrates how Ishiguro both contributes to, and contends with, socially constructed concepts of ageing. In refocusing Ishiguro criticism onto reminiscence rather than nostalgia, this article aims to put ageing firmly on the agenda of future research.

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Ria Taketomi

Abstract

This essay analyzes the children’s imaginative play in Kazuo Ishiguro’s various novels, with a special focus on Never Let Me Go. Children often engage in various types of repetitive imaginative play, acting out stories about things that do not actually exist in order to avoid the pain of confronting their problems. An exploration of children’s play and the roles performed by the guardians and Madam helps us read the novel from a new perspective – the Mujo view of Buddhism. Mujo is the Buddhist philosophy which describes “the impermanence of all phenomena.” In Never Let Me Go, shadows of death weigh heavily on the reader as an unavoidable reminder of the nature of life. This brings Mujo to the Japanese readers’ minds. The Mujo view of Buddhism has imbued Japanese literature since the Kamakura Era (1185), and a reading of Never Let Me Go from the Mujo perspective sheds light on the condition of its protagonists. My analysis aims to introduce the Mujo doctrine to anglophone literary studies by foregrounding the poignancy and resilience found in Never Let Me Go.

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Ana-Karina Schneider

Abstract

In this essay, Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Bewilderment Trilogy” is read as a series of Bildungsromane that test the limits of that genre. In these thematically unrelated novels, characters reach critical points in their lives when they are confronted with the ways in which their respective childhoods have shaped their grownup expectations and professional careers. In each, the protagonist has a successful career, whether as a musician (The Unconsoled), a detective (When We Were Orphans), or a carer (Never Let Me Go), but finds it difficult to overcome childhood trauma. Ishiguro’s treatment of childhood in these novels foregrounds the tension between individual subjectivity and the formal strictures and moral rigors of socialisation. In this respect, he comes close to modernist narratives of becoming, particularly James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Narrative strategies such as epiphanies and the control of distance and tropes such as boarding schools and journeys to foreign lands provide the analytical coordinates of my comparative study. While raising the customary questions of the Bildungsroman concerning socialisation and morality, I argue, Ishiguro manipulates narration very carefully in order to maintain a non-standard yet meaningful gap between his protagonists’ understanding of their lives and the reader’s.

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Angela Ridinger-Dotterman

Abstract

Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go lures readers into a dystopic world that has the artifice of a country boarding school. When the characters to which readers have become attached are revealed to be clones raised for organ harvesting, the novel forces the readers to confront questions about what it means to be human, and at what cost humanity is willing to preserve itself. In this science fiction narrative about cloning, Ishiguro invokes multiple representations of the disabled body: the clones have been created, to ameliorate disability from the rest of society. Their organs are harvested to forestall the inevitable disabilities that the ailing or aging body will experience. The novel also replicates the social apparatuses that have traditionally been used to contain and eliminate disability. Reading Ishiguro’s narrative of cloning from a disability studies perspective reveals the novel’s use of defamiliarization as a literary technique to examine both the ideological constructions of disability and the physical structures that have contained disabled bodies during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Finally, approaching Never Let Me Go from this critical perspective reveals the novel’s answer to the central question it poses: What does it mean to be human?

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Ljubica Matek

Abstract

Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel A Pale View of Hills (1982) represents both trauma and migration as continuous processes rather than finite stages in the life of Etsuko, the novel’s protagonist. This essay focuses on the ways in which trauma is narrated in the novel, arguing that in representing the protagonist’s life, Ishiguro mimics the narrative strategies used by trauma survivors. Written from the point of view of an unreliable narrator, the novel is a discontinuous narrative marked by indeterminacy and ambiguity, which “travels” from Britain to Japan and back, and which evinces biographical gaps and uncertainties that blur the boundary between Etsuko’s past and present, making it impossible for her to fully cross that boundary. The parallels between her life and the life of her friend Sachiko as well as her dubious narration, a consequence of creating a false version of traumatic events as a protective measure against their impact, serve to emphasize the incompleteness of both her migration and her story.

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Jerrine Tan

Abstract

I identify two general approaches to the reception of Ishiguro’s novels: World Literature critics writing on cosmopolitanism exalt what I am calling Ishiguro’s “post-Japan novels” for their consideration of universal ethical dilemmas that transcend their historical moment and place; conversely, most criticism on his “Japan novels” performs problematically culture-specific exoticizing and Orientalist readings. Widely read as a detective novel about a British detective, Christopher Banks, solving the mystery of his parents’ disappearance, When We Were Orphans is in many ways Ishiguro’s most underwhelming novel. But, set in Shanghai, it is an anomaly among Ishiguro’s “post-Japan novels.” Its lackluster reception may be explained by simply acknowledging from the start that When We Were Orphans is just not a very good detective novel at all. The refusal or discomfort around doing so, this essay argues, is because the excuse of bad genre provides (like Japaneseness does for the Japan novels) precisely the convenient veil for why the novel does not work, or is not well liked. In other words, by historicizing the novel and reading it (with)in its political and historical moment, I argue that When We Were Orphans forces an exposure of the double standard and aestheticizing reading practices that critics often bring to their readings of Ishiguro’s works.

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Emily Horton

Abstract

In the context of twenty-first century global conservatism, where anti-immigrant sentiment is everywhere apparent, the importance of Ishiguro’s writing arguably lies in its on-going challenge to this perspective’s faulty logic and its capacity to reveal the radical violence behind nationalist political attacks on minority and immigrant populations. In this article I explore this challenge explicitly through a politically-oriented reading of The Remains of the Day (1989), highlighting this novel’s joint critique of Thatcherite nationalism and late twentieth century global entrepreneurialism. While this focus obviously represents a response to an earlier socio-political moment, defined by its own unique amalgam of ideological anxieties, nevertheless what emerges most prominently through this reading is the novel’s topical condemnation of cultural essentialism and its attendant hierarchies, concerns which remain of utmost critical significance within the twenty-first century. Thus, by making this assessment explicit, highlighting British conservatism’s devastating psychological and material implications for affected individuals, ranging from repressed and traumatised psychologies to radical economic precarity, this novel can be seen to register Thatcherite prejudice in a poignantly relevant manner. Indeed, the pseudo-respect granted to the ‘genuine old-fashioned English butler’ in this novel might also be seen as comparable to Trump’s pseudo-populism or Brexit nostalgia, both of which likewise ignore the pressing reality of imperialism’s historical violence.

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Sean Matthews