The Remains of the day

The Remains of the dayKazuo Ishiguro

Have you ever wondered how we form our decisions in life, how we take the turns and accept the changes in and around our lives.
At times things are based predominantly on some very particular event or situation that happens to happen with our life. But most of the other things take place gradually and no particular event can be pinpointed for them. The change looks so gradual and subtle that it can be hard to believe that things were indeed otherwise some time back.
Well, in our fast paced lives we seldom sit and look back but its something Kazuo does amazingly.

The Remains of the day is a story about Stevens (The Butler through whose eyes the story is narrated) who while embarking on a countryside journey around England looks back at his career where he served about 30 years at Darlington hall.
He talks about the nature of his job, its delicate intricacies, its own way of helping towards mankind and also how the long cherished qualities of the job are being neglected by today’s youth. He puts up some nice anecdotes featuring some great Butlers and their great qualities.
But as he pulls up memories from the past, also unearthed are few questions and doubts about the convictions he had towards his work. So the novel moves as strings are tangled and untangled.
An interesting peculiarity of the novel is the way Stevens at times held himself back while explaining difficult emotional situations as if he fears overindulging and saying something which he’s yet to acknowledge himself or fears acknowledging. And then later comes a point where he is forced to acknowledge about his mistaken convictions, and more importantly his notion of Dignity.
Another high point of the book is how Kazuo shows the relationship between Stevens and Miss Kenton. Though he never out rightly says or shows that both somewhere somehow loved each other but the atmosphere and feeling he generates at the end was impeccable.

In all The Remains of the day is a very nicely written consummate book. Kazuo has his own idiosyncratic style of narration, which he showcases here almost flawlessly. Go grab the copy and enjoy.


An artist of the Floating world

An artist of the Floating world – by Kazuo Ishiguro

Its Oct 1948, Japan is resurrecting after the shattering and mournful World War II. People are learning new things which they at times call western things and also are trying to unlearn few old things also. At one side young men are brimming with confidence, as they know they will be laying the bricks for the future and on the other side there are few unsettling and concerning issues that the WWII has left behind.
One such issue is getting all 25+ young people married as soon as possible as WW has quite understandable postponed that auspicious event from their lives. Masuji Ono is one father who’s concerned about getting his daughter Noriko married. Little he knows as he will try to find a suitable match for her, after an unsuccessful attempt last year, his concerns, apprehensions and old random memories will bring out a gloomy and dark yet enlightening story of redemption and understanding.

The novel begins as if subtlety was being over done, something a grandfather will do while telling his 6-8 year old grandson some old fable. This overdone subtlety then slowly blends as a personal characteristic of Masuji Ono through whose eyes the story is being presented.

One of the high point of the story is the student teacher relationship being shown and analyzed throughout the story.
Once Masuji says,

One supposes all groups of pupil tend to have a leading figure, someone whose abilities the teacher singles out as an example for the other’s to follow. And it is this pupil by virtue of his having strongest grasp of his teachers ideas will tend function as main interpreter of those ideas to the less experienced or the less gifted pupils. But by the same token, it is this same leading pupil who is most likely to see shortcoming’s in the teachers work, or else develop views of his own divergent from those of the teacher. In theory, of course, a good teacher should accept this tendency- indeed; welcome it as a sign that he has brought his pupil to a point of maturity. In practice, however, the emotions involved can be qute complicated. Some times when someone has nurtured a pupil long and hard, it is difficult to see any such maturing of talent other than treachery and some regrettable situations are apt to arise

In light are his own relationship with his teacher Mori san and then with one of his most gifted pupil Kuroda.

In the story is about the things that started changing before war when people and more specifically Masuji started understanding the situation of Japan. How they moved forward towards the war. Then as the war ended how the tone and the attitude of the younger generation changes and what turmoil was left for older people who were instrumental in bringing up the war.The story is about Masuji realizing and coming in terms with the present and the past. At times also realizing some of his mistakes.

The story as the name suggests is indeed one about an artist of the floating world where one contemplates the world of beauty, pain and pleasure. The world that world which disappears with the morning light. After leaving this world for more tangible and meaningful realities, the sun in the end did dawned on Masuji. And more understandably was lost with the morning light as the country stepped forward after the dark WWII.

Kazuo Ishingro is a good writer though his way of writing looks too simple and monotonous in the beginning but then one is slowly drawn into his floating world of elegance, simplicity and subtlity. An artist of the Floating world is indeed a worth read.