Realism, Dreams and the Unconscious in the Novels of Kazuo Ishiguro
A critical consensus has emerged about the themes, modes, narrative techniques and interrelationships of the five novels that Ishiguro has published to date. The first three — A Pale View of Hills (1982), An Artist of the Floating World (1986) and The Remains of the Day (1989) — have been celebrated for their historically grounded realism, achieved through the limpid, masterfully controlled prose styles of their first-person narrators, all of whom depend upon memory as they look back over their troubled lives and times. Realism in fiction is a vexed concept, but it can be defined as the attempt to use linguistic and narrative conventions to create a fictional illusion of social and psychological reality that seems plausible to ordinary readers. Writers of realist fiction, David Lodge comments, assume that ‘there is a common phenomenal world that may be reliably described by the methods of empirical history’; however, he adds that ‘to the later writers in the [realist] tradition what this world means is much more problematical’.1 In other words, although the novelists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had a shared view of the nature of reality, those of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries are generally aware that what constitutes reality is a matter for speculation and debate. Neither is contemporary realism usually premised on the belief that the language used to describe what Lodge calls the ‘common phenomenal world’ is a transparent medium that creates a perfect correspondence between its symbols and an objective reality external to it.
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For Further Reading
- Adleman, Gary, ‘Doubles on the Rocks: Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled’, Critique, 42, 2 (2001), 166–79.Google Scholar
- Davis, Rocio G., ‘Imaginary Homelands Revisited in the Novels of Kazuo Ishiguro’, Miscelanea, 15 (1994), 139–54.Google Scholar
- Lang, James M., ‘Public Memory, Private History: Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day’, Clio, 29, 2 (2000), 143–65.Google Scholar
- Wong, Cynthia F., Kazuo Ishiguro (Tavistock: Northcote House in Association with the British Council, 2000).Google Scholar