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.