Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day

At the core of every one of Kazuo Ishiguro’s books is a thread of innocence that is on its way to being broken.  Every story is the story of a character whose view is so unknowingly narrow, it is painful to witness.  But they are naive in such diverse ways, the breaking of innocence coming about through such diverse courses, that each Ishiguro story is refreshingly new and surprising.

The Remains of the Day has no big reveals, only an almost imperceptible unraveling.  There are no loud flourishes, no colorful metaphors, not even any passages that are so tangibly heartbreaking.  The beauty in this book is of a diaphanous quality, contained below the reflective surface of a deep, clear pool.  A tiny whisper that I can only hear through absolute silence, almost ungraspable, a filmy wisp of thoughts that have already been caught by the wind and taken flight again, only a few moments after I have closed the last page.

“But what is the sense in forever speculating what might have happened had such and such a moment turned out differently?  One could presumably drive oneself to distraction in this way.  In any case, while it is all very well to talk of ‘turning points’, one can surely only recognize such moments in retrospect.  Naturally, when one looks back to such instances today, they may indeed take the appearance of being crucial, precious moments in one’s life; but of course, at the time, this was not the impression one had.  Rather, it was as though one had available a never-ending number of days, months, years in which to sort out the vagaries of one’s relationship with Miss Kenton; an infinite number of further opportunities in which to remedy the effect of this or that misunderstanding.  There was surely nothing to indicate at the time that such evidently small incidents would render whole dreams forever irredeemable.”


2 thoughts on “Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day

  1. Eric

    I just finished reading this book about a month ago and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought it was a page turner as well as a story that kept me pondering its meaning for many days after I had already finished it. Interestingly enough the paragraph you posted was the one paragraph in the book that stood out to me. I wanted to add it to a collection of quotes and passages that I keep so I typed the first line into google hoping that I could find the whole paragraph to copy and paste. Interestingly enough your blog was the first link that popped up.

    Any recommendations for another good read?

    1. Alice Post author

      I love all of Kazuo Ishiguro’s books, except for The Unconsoled which is borderline unreadable. The Remains of the Day is my favorite, though. I post book reviews on this blog occasionally, but it’s pretty hard for me to love a book enough to write about it.


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