The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro, and another England
13 January 2023
Reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s 1988 novel, The Remains of the Day, twenty-years ago, changed the way British freelance writer Max Liu saw England. When Liu re-read the novel last year, he changed the way he saw the central protagonist James Stevens, the stoic butler of Darlington Hall, where much of the story is set.
It was one of the most profound reading experiences of my life. Partly, this was down to geography and timing. I grew up in Cornwall and, living hundreds of miles from home for the first time, I was ready to think about England and its meanings. This quietly subversive novel showed how the English obsession with class colours our emotions, speech and interactions. It changed the way I saw the country I thought I knew.
If you haven’t had the chance yet, check out the brilliant 1993 Merchant Ivory produced screen adaptation of the novel, starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.
Seriously though, what of Ishiguro’s work isn’t thought provoking, or somehow transformative?