Friday, September 28, 2018

Kazuo Ishiguro - The Remains of the Day

The novel's narrator, Stevens, is a perfect English butler who tries to give his narrow existence form and meaning through the self-effacing, almost mystical practice of his profession. In a career that spans the second World War, Stevens is oblivious of the real life that goes on around him -- oblivious, for instance, of the fact that his aristocrat employer is a Nazi sympathizer. Still, there are even larger matters at stake in this heartbreaking, pitch-perfect novel -- namely, Stevens' own ability to allow some bit of life-affirming love into his tightly repressed existence.

Comment: This is the third book I read by Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro and so far, my absolute favorite. I'm not actually trying to go through all his books but since I've seen them available at the library, why not use the opportunity to update on his work?
The previous books I've read weren't as amazing as I imagined but I finished them with different grading in mind. This one, however, ended up being my favorite.

This books can be described as a huge monologue presented by Stevens, the perfect butler of the old days when distinguished families of aristocrats used to have many servants in their houses. Stevens is a man of few words, and in this book he describes a car trip he has after years of service and all the contemplations the travel induces in him. Stevens is on his way to see another employee of the house where he has always worked in, Darlington Hall. The woman left the service to be married and after years of not seeing each other, Sevens wants to make certain she is well, considering a letter he received and where all pointed out for her marriage to not be as steady as he imagined...

There could be countless things to write about this book because each sentence has something to wonder about, to let the reader think. If one had the time, every detail would be a good enough conversation reason but to me, the fascination about this book is such that I don't have as many worthy words to write as the book itself is incredible. So, basically, I'll just write a little bit of why I liked it.

The writing style of this book isn't easy, the narrator Stevens does get lost a lot on his memories and it reads a bit like when we talk with someone, we also mention many things out of order. At first this felt complicated but with time I've come to enjoy immensely the "losing track" because that's when Stevens would add the most poignant sections of his memories. I can understand why some readers might not like this style, also not the time it takes for any useful information to be understood but for me it was a great way to be in tune with the narrators feelings and emotions and that certainly made it all worth it.

Everything we learn, in terms of plot, is through Stevens' eyes. This means we must infer several things, unless in a conversation with other characters we see a different POV and get other knowledge. This means Stevens is very proper, very controlled and never says something out of place, out line, out of proportion. Most of the details are so subtle we do need to read between the lines to better understand why some things are happening or would Stevens have described them that way. This is both slow and intriguing and I liked how much like a treasure it would be to discover something new in his words.

One such example is the relationship he had with miss Kenton, the housekeeper. They always had professional, cordial and objective conversations, even when they spent some time together at the end of the day discussing house matters.
Oh to describe perfectly the emotion of how subtle and powerful their feelings were just by the almost impersonal words they exchanged and later on to really read how Steven's heart was breaking after he heard something confirmed at last... I can't describe it, but those sentences were perfect, perfect, perfect!
Attention, this is no love story, but the way one could contain emotion while showing a professional demeanor and still let the reader "see" it... this section, closer to the end of the book, after pages and pages of subtle information being given just made it all worth to me.

There are some less than interesting details related to specific characters but most of the time, I was engrossed in the novel! To think that just by not being able to think ahead, the things we miss or don't realize we miss... but time doesn't go back. I liked the way this made me think about so many situations and how people can be so focused on one aspect of their lives, they disregard everything else (even if not so much in this society where we are bombarded with news and tales everywhere).
This is really literary in its presentation but what a gem to read.
Grade: 9/10

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