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Martina Juričková

Abstract

J. R. R. Tolkien, as somebody who experienced a difficult early life as an orphan and then as a World War I soldier, endured enough trauma and suffering in his life for it to become a significant element in almost all of his fictional works. This paper explores Tolkien’s understanding of the effects of suffering in human life, which was shaped by his religious belief. He presents pain as an inevitable and essential part of the nature of the Fallen World; yet while it may seem at first as a form of punishment, if treated appropriately, it turns into a powerful means of achieving personal or societal salvation.

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Ema Jelínková

Abstract

This paper presents the case of Scotland as a traumatized nation haunted by ghosts of the past. Scottish national identity has been profoundly influenced by the country’s loss of sovereignty in the 1707 Act of Union. As a result, the stateless nation deprived of agency built its literature on the foundations of idealized stories of its heroic past. It was not until the 1980s that Scottish literature started to tackle the collective trauma and gave rise to works focusing on the weak and the exploited rather than the brave. Janice Galloway and A. L. Kennedy both epitomize this new vein of literature of trauma and explore the links between national and individual experience and strategies for healing the trauma.

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Martin Šemelák

Abstract

This paper deals with the British dystopian novel Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, in which human clones are forced to donate their organs in an alternate reality set in 1990s England. Through the characters of the novel, various manifestations of suffering are examined from the viewpoint of existentialism. The whole concept of donation might be understood as a metaphorical expression for human life, as well as the omnipresent consciousness of its finitude. Ishiguro has prepared the ground for disturbing discussion where two ostensibly different groups of people – clones, whose only purpose is to donate their vital organs, and “normal people” as the recipients – suddenly appear to be indistinguishable in terms of mortality and the general experience of human existence. This paper focuses on the concept of existential anguish in the context of the novel’s story. Using an unobtrusive science fiction narrative, Never Let Me Go encourages readers to contemplate the essence, meaning and purpose of human life, and it quietly points to topics that are usually treated as highly sensitive: the inevitability of death and apparent absurdity of human existence.

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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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Jana Waldnerová

Abstract

The paper focuses on the life and poetics of Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, an important representative of Cuban gay literature, who, due to his sexual orientation and eventual opposition to the Revolution, was silenced by the Cuban government and exposed to continual threats. His novels, which depict the hardship of and discrimination against ordinary people and gay members of Cuban society (for example Old Rosa and Farewell to the Sea), reveal also signs of the deep trauma that the writer suffered and its impact on his writing.

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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.