Remains of the Day as a Postmodern Novel

Topics: Postmodernism, The Remains of the Day, Modernism Pages: 13 (5357 words) Published: May 11, 2005
Postmodern literature has its many spokesmen. Many would agree that Kazuo Ishiguro is not the most typical representative of this somewhat anarchistic literary and social movement, but he is certainly one of its most subtle and valuable artists. He uses the principles of post modernistic writing in a very meaningful way, and only after a thorough analysis can one fully appreciate all carefully constructed and presented elements trough which he successfully delivers his story. Remains of the day, as a novel, is a unique example of how a story of a personal fate of one man can reflect on such large, historical and social scale. Above all other motifs, the one of history, especially personal, individual history is the idea that dominates all novels Ishiguro wrote, Remains of the day in particular. In Linda Hutcheon's words "the departure, rather than reworking of mimetic novelist tradition" is a definition that helps understanding the mechanism, the strategy Ishiguro uses to communicate this story to the reader. Focus on biography, personal history represents a break with the traditional approach to history and historicity. Dealing with past (private or public) and confronting it, is an important subject that reoccurs within the discourse of British postmodern prose. Concerning Ishiguro's work itself, and Remains of the day as an example of his manner of narrating, this subject of history is precisely the thing that dominates the discourse and captures reader's attention (the plot in classical sense is quite static). Stevens, alike all of Ishiguro's narrators, is not at all objective and trustworthy. His memory plays tricks on him (motif especially present in his earlier two novels with Japanese protagonists), his language distorts to reveal the actual truth that is buried under layers of self-deception. The language is seen as an important weapon, and as much as it is used by Ishiguro's narrators, as the means of suppression of the actual state of affairs, it is also the very thing that unmasks them. The Suez Canal crisis and Nazi propaganda in pre-WWII Britain, as a historical background, are present in the novel, but they are tackled with in a rather indirect way, barely even mentioned. It is a scene set for the "real history" Ishiguro deals with, the individual one – a retrospective of Stevens' life. The socio- historical issues are present, but rather out of focus. Postmodern prose is by definition self conscious, full of inter-textual references. The intention is revealing its artificiality. An abundance of "blank spaces", puns and irony serves as a constant reminder of the fact that postmodern writers do not attempt to create an illusion of reality, but quite the opposite. By emphasizing the actual body of a novel as a construct, they, more or less successfully, attempt to provoke an inner dialogue, a discussion between the reader and the writer, or the narrating character. The reality, claims the postmodern fiction, is already irreversibly compromised and altered by the cognitive mechanisms and even more so, the language itself. In this novel, the use of the language is to reveal the character behind it, although at the beginning it is a weapon Stevens uses to disguise the truth. The style Stevens uses, particularly his formal tone and the choice of certain words (bantering) excellently present his character. Often he even repeats some phrases, or sentences, word by word. However, Ishiguro himself is rather reluctant of making the techniques he applies too visible and obviously revealed in his writing. He states: "[F]or me, while the nature of fiction or fictionality are things that writers might need to be concerned with to get on with their work, I don't believe that the nature of fiction is one of the burning issues of the late twentieth century. It's not one of the things I want to turn to novels and art to find out about." The artificiality of fiction is something he doesn't directly insists on, but certainly...
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