Realism, Dreams and the Unconscious in the Novels of Kazuo Ishiguro

  • Frederick M. Holmes


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

  1. For a hard copy list of Kazuo Ishiguro’s work up to 2001, see Contemporary Novelists, ed. David Madden et al., 7th edn (New York: St James Press, 2001). For a more up-to-date list on the internet, see the British Council website: <>.Google Scholar
  2. Adleman, Gary, ‘Doubles on the Rocks: Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled’, Critique, 42, 2 (2001), 166–79.Google Scholar
  3. Appiah, Anthony, ‘Liberalism, Individuality, and Identity’, Critical Inquiry, 27 (2001), 305–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Davis, Rocio G., ‘Imaginary Homelands Revisited in the Novels of Kazuo Ishiguro’, Miscelanea, 15 (1994), 139–54.Google Scholar
  5. Lang, James M., ‘Public Memory, Private History: Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day’, Clio, 29, 2 (2000), 143–65.Google Scholar
  6. Robbins, Bruce, ‘Very Busy Just Now: Globalisation and Harriedness in Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled’, Comparative Literature, 53 (2001), 426–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Wong, Cynthia F., Kazuo Ishiguro (Tavistock: Northcote House in Association with the British Council, 2000).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Frederick M. Holmes 2005

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  • Frederick M. Holmes

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