Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Remains of the Day

I have just read this novel for the second time, having read it in the not so distant past of the mid-nineties shortly after it was published and won the Booker Prize for fiction.
My current reading confirms the reasonableness of that award and reminds me of the felicitous style demonstrated by Kazuo Ishiguro in writing this book. The music of the prose helped make bearable the oppressiveness of the past and the icy gravity of Stevens" approach to his work and his life (the two are interchangeable). Stevens is the narrator of the story and as a butler he demonstrates dedication to his craft that goes above and beyond "a life of service". The price he pays is an inability to relate to other humans with any sort of feeling that goes beyond the formality of his work environment. As is typical of truly good books you can tell a lot from the first page as to what will be important. Ironically, we find reference to both an "expedition" and "imagination" on the opening page; two things that Stevens has never experienced in his life of service. As the story is told looking back from a vantage point near the end of his life it has the flavor of nostalgia, but with that flavor the flatness of a life that is as plain and worn as the sleeve of Steven's butler jacket. While the prose style kept this reader turning the pages I wondered what Stevens new employer, an American named Farraday, saw in this worn out man. Perhaps he saw the humanity that Stevens himself never found.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 1989.

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