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Ishiguro's Remains of the Day

A novel by Kazuo Ishiguro

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Comedy and Tragedy: The Story of an English Butler.

  • May 10, 2013
  • by
To be a positive contributor to society and the important issues that flow within it, is something, for the most part, that people yearn to be. They want to offer the best of themselves-their talents, their expertise, their prowess (in whatever field)-and in a small or big way, be acknowledged for it. It is a stark truth in all professions, to the highly important to the extremely entry-level. Besides monetary necessity for the reasons why we work, acknowledgement ranks right up there, if not number one on the list. And it is true for the protagonist, Stevens, in Kazuo Ishiguro's elegantly yet restrained or repressed English novel, The Remains of the Day.

Set in England in the 1950s while on a contemplative road trip, the story revolves around Stevens, the ultimate prim and proper, sometimes unyielding "perfect" English butler who prides himself on his sterling service on behalf of his English lord, Lord Darlington of Darlington Hall. While on his jaunt throughout the rolling green English countryside, Stevens ruminates through a series of chapter-by-chapter flashbacks, the genuine "greatness" of the man whom he served, a refined English lord of olden times but also a bumbling political neophyte of the worst sort who goes way over his head regarding Hitler and the Nazi way of "doing things". Constantly ingnoring the nagging truth that is in his heart and mind, he delves deeper within himself and presents a formal if not icy, robotic mask of civility, propriety and polite reservedness. While the outer image that he presents is one of a fine old fellow, the inner turmoil and realization of the dark dynamic of Lord Darlington-via the various dialogues with Miss Kenton (the head house mistress)-gradually fleshes itself out to where it is no longer a rumor or speculation but a horrifying truth. And how does Stevens fit into that wider picture of Lord Darlington's inhuman actions--guilt by association or something darker and worse? Did he himself evolve into a temporary drone or puppet and turn a blind eye upon fanatical anti-semitism?

The Remains of the Day is a very quite book with beautiful, elegant prose; it is very much an English novel that eloquently addresses many contemporay issues besides religious discrimination. However, it is percisely its quietude that makes the blarring horror of Lord Darlington's anti-semitism so disturbing and in-your-face. And Stevens, whose blind allegiance is firmly fixed, no matter what, one-ups Lord Darlington-if that is possible-and boldly poses the question to the reader: Were I to witness a manifestitation of evil, and I knew it to be so, would I turn a blind eye or would I try to do something about it? The Remains of the Day is a compelling and beautifully crafted novel and appropriately imbued with dry English humor, lifting it in places so the book does not drip down like a wet, oppressive cloth of banal English preachments of right and wrong.
Comedy and Tragedy: The Story of an English Butler.

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More The Remains of the Day reviews
Quick Tip by . June 15, 2010
Wow. Understated and entirely telling of the profound changes in British culture.
review by . July 12, 2009
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
   An individual’s memories are his or her personal history, and history is the collective memory of a nation. Both are subject to revision over time. Early on, self-deception is necessary to maintain self-respect and dignity. With time, however, the individual, nation or society has the opportunity to achieve self-revelation by an honest appraisal and revision of the past. This book is about how individuals and societies come to face the less than flattering truth about themselves. …
About this book



ISBN-10: 0679731725 (Vintage Intl. pbk. ed.)
ISBN-13: 9780679731726 (Vintage Intl. pbk. ed.)
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Genre: Fiction, British, Contemporary
Publisher: Vintage
Date Published: September 12, 1990
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