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Sara Sullam

Itinerari nel Regno Unito contemporaneo. Con un’antologia di testi di Caroline Patey

When Ishiguro visits the west country: an essay on The remains of the day

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  • 1 K. Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day, London - Boston, Faber and Faber, 1984. The novel shuns summar (...)

1One of Ishiguro’s press-favoured personae is the Japanese-writer-more-English-than-the-English; one of the current clichés about his highly acclaimed third novel, The Remains of the Day1, is the-English-butler- more-English-butler-than-any-English-butler. The reviewers’ opinion, of course, is never completely unfounded, and there is undoubtedly a certain amount of ‘Englishness’ in various features of the book, such as its main character’s extreme verbal and emotional restraint as well as many a moment of cold humour. But stereotypes are never entirely satisfying and one is often tempted to question them (and run the risk of elaborating counter-clichés!), an exercise which has motivated the writing of the present essay. Unlike Le Carré who compares the novel to a perfectly-shaped diamond, some readers may think it resembles a more enigmatic, though precious and polished, stone. While to many Stevens the butler appears a ridiculous and laughable character, a few to be sure will find him a deeply intriguing and moving figure. Critics have praised Ishiguro for his calm and understated prose, some (as S. Rushdie, 1989) believe it masks disturbingly unusual themes, like truth, error, power and betrayal. Most of all, I have the feeling that Kazuo Ishiguro’s works and words resist, however gently, annexation to the realm of uncontaminated ‘Britishness’ and are best understood through the double cultural affiliation of their author, or rather through his double non-affiliation.

1. A guided tour of English literature

  • 2 The novel Hillis Miller has in mind at this specific stage of his first chapter is Lord Jim, but th (...)

2When one embarks with Ishiguro’s perfect butler, Stevens, on a six-day automobile ride through South-West England, among other pleasures and discoveries, one comes close to facing some of the basic assumptions of recent and less recent criticism; namely, that here as in any literary work, “[…] derrière chaque phrase se dissimule la rumeur multiple dont elle s’est détachée pour s’isoler devant nous dans son individualité [...] Tout texte englobe, et est englobé. Tout texte est un produit productif” (Starobinski 1971: 153) or, to quote from a more analytical and elaborate version of the same idea, that “each enactment of a given episode echoes backward and forward indefinitely, creating a pattern of eddying repetition” (Hillis Miller 1982: 34)2. A small cluster of literary shadows or would-be prototypes naturally come to mind while one is driven slowly in a Ford car from Oxfordshire to Cornwall, through the hilly countryside of Wiltshire and Dorset; they unobtrusively whisper to the reader that the butler’s tracks have already, at another time, been trodden on. Like many other novels, The Remains of the Day is unambiguously reminiscent of several classical narrative patterns.

1.1. A new ‘picaro

3The careful arrangement of parts, according to the temporal and spatial progress of the journey, can be seen as a rough suggestion of the orderly Augustan plot-structure to be found, for example, in Fielding; just as Darlington Hall, lying at the origin and somehow representing the cause of Stevens’ departure on his tour, might amount, in spite of impending decadence, to a mid-twentieth century reedition of Squire Allworthy’s Paradise Hall. The Oxfordshire country-house, where Stevens “had the privilege to see the best of England over the years” (RD 4) could certainly be described with Fielding’s words: “There was an air of grandeur in it, that struck you with awe, and rival’d the beauties of the best Grecian architecture; and it was as commodious within as venerable without” (Fielding 1985: 58). Both houses hold a place of honour in the same paradigm, and each can be considered as the “ungrounded doubling” of the other (Hillis Miller 1982: 6), as its imperfect simulacrum. Similarly, a reference to the servant/master archetype is implicit in the delicate and complex employer/employee relationship which stands central to Stevens’ life and thoughts; and the earnest and long-lasting trust between him and Lord Darlington, as well as the more jolly and superficial bond with Mr. Farraday both open the door – among other possibilities – to the facile suggestion of the Jones/Partridge couple and of its model Quixote/Sancho.

4Other features traditionally belonging to the eighteenth-century novel can be underlined, starting of course from the journey itself, which is divided into six unequal stages, each contributing to improve Stevens’ understanding of his life and of life at large. His final achievement is far less rosy and optimistic than in the picaresque universe and there is no room in Stevens’s world for Tom Jones’ and Sophia Western’s affection, “daily increased and confirmed by mutual endearments, and mutual esteem”; but still, as in Tom’s case, who “hath also, by reflexion on his first follies, acquired a discretion and prudence very uncommon […]” (Fileding 1985: 874), Stevens’ six days on the road have brought him to some kind of knowledge, albeit of a bitter and diminutive sort. After a life dedicated to seeking to avoid professional faux-pas, by the end of the novel Stevens reaches a sort of consciousness which takes the form of the desolate and rhetorical question: “Really – one has to ask oneself what dignity is there in that?” (RD 243). The initiatic ritual of the journey which gives so many English novels their vectorial shape has been celebrated another time, as is confirmed by the butler’s characteristically cautious and awkward syntax: “[...] but then it is perhaps in the nature of coming away on a trip such as this that one is prompted towards such surprising new perspectives on topics one imagined one had long ago thought through thoroughly” (RD 117).

5Together with the Bildung come the ordeal, the obstacles to be overcome which enable the hero to test and demonstrate his abilities, meet new people and enjoy life’s variety. In The Remains of the Day, these complications of the plot assume the lowly and understated form of a hen crossing the road, the unexpected breakdown of the Ford and an untimely shortage of petrol. These three incidents force Stevens into a somewhat reluctant contact with humanity, even though “the simple kindness (he has) been thanked for [...] and offered in return [...]” during the hen episode leaves him “[…] exceedingly uplifted about the whole enterprise” (RD 69). But things change as time goes by. Meeting the batman-chauffeur who gently refills the empty car radiator affords unwelcome questions and less unmixed pleasures. In spite of the sense of hospitality of the local people, the night in Tavistock leaves in Stevens the memory of “[…] a most discomforting set of events” (RD 180), and the sounds of footsteps approaching his hosts’ house is perceived as “[…] something a little sinister” (RD 181). The ordeal however, though in a low key and without any heroic show, is overcome: “In any case, regrettable as the whole business was, I do not see that any real harm has been done” (RD 193).

6Stevens’ journey is measured by these small battles and obstacles, and so has been his life as a butler, though he recalls it in a much grander way and conveys it with high sounding words: from the 1923 conference during which “[...] he truly came of age as a butler [...]” (RD 70), to the crucial anxieties about the quality of silver, “probably unrivalled” (RD 134), from the occasional dreadful ordeal Stevens “[…] is put through [...]” (RD 196), to the “[…] sense of triumph [...]” and of “[…] being as close to the great hub of things as a butler could wish […]” (RD 227).

7The game of mistaken identities, which works at different levels of meaning, is another link between the mock-epic genre and the butler’s saga. People often mistake Stevens for a true gentleman: “It is not just the cut of your clothes, nor is it the fine way you’ve got of speaking. There’s something else that marks you out as a gentleman. Hard to put your finger on it, but it’s plain for all to see that’s got eyes” (RD 185). It also happens repeatedly that for no clear reason Stevens prefers not to say who he is and above all whom he has served, which is why an American visitor to Darlington Hall firmly believes he is a “mock” and certainly no “real old English butler” (RD 124). As so many picaresque characters, the butler is in disguise, unwilling to reveal his identity and connections to the world, which of course prepares the stage for typical recognitions and coups de théatre: “Now I got it. I couldn’t make you out for a while, but now I got it. You’re one of them top-notch butlers […] I thought at first, here’s a really posh geezer” (RD 119); another of these reversals occurs in Devon: “It wasn’t my intention to deceive anyone […] The doctor gave a hearty laugh. “It must do one good to be mistaken for a lord every now and then” (RD 208).

8Many of the necessary ingredients of a successful mock-epic novel are thus found in The Remains of the Day, which follows the Aristotelian pattern of complication-reversal-catharsis, toys with overnight adventures and vague prospects of elopement, compares country simplemindedness and ‘city’ customs and, true to the genre, endlessly mixes what Fielding would have called ‘grand style’ and ‘low style’. Though artfully blurred and subdued, a picaresque memory lingers between Ishiguro’s pages, the nature and complexity of which can be clarified by Hillis-Miller’s distinction of the two forms of repetition. The first immediate form of repetition, the ‘Platonic type’, leads to a “daylight, willed memory (which works) logically [...]”; the second involuntary form of memory is “woven out out of similarities which are ‘opaquely’ similar [...]”. The two types are obviously closely connected: “Each form of repetition calls up the other, by an inevitable compulsion. The second is not the negation or the opposite of the first, but its ‘counterpart’, in a strange relation whereby the second is the subversive ghost of the first [...]” (Hillis Miller 1982: 8). The similarity between Stevens and Tom Jones (or Joseph Andrews) appears to belong to the Hillis-Millerian type, “in which one thing is experienced as repeating something which is quite different from it and which it strangely resembles” (Ibidem). The distance between the picaresque novel and The Remains of the Day is a function of their resemblance.

1.2. A Wessex tale

9It is also intriguing that Ishiguro should have selected as the stage of his novel an area like the West Country, so historically and symbolically pregnant, at least for anybody choosing to write in English. Translated into Hardy’s geography, Stevens’ motoring trip takes him from Melchester, Mid-Wessex, to an unidentified place in SouthWessex, not far from the border (RD 167), to Toneborough in Nether Wessex, then further south in Lower Wessex and Lyonesse with a final stop-over in Budmouth on his way back home. It is hard to refrain from letting the imagination peruse maps and routes, only to realize, though, that there is no possible identity between, for instance, Tess’s zigzag pilgrimage from Shaston to Wintoncester (East-south-west-eastsouth-north) and Stevens’s relatively regular and unhindered roundtour. Still, the space and attention dedicated to Salisbury and the great plain somehow prevents the reader from entirely dismissing Hardyan remembrances. For Clare and Tess when they are on the run Salisbury means a nocturnal and rapid vision or rather non-vision, which the narrator nonetheless chooses to describe:

The intercepting city, ancient Melchester, they were obliged to pass through in order to take advantage of the town bridge for crossing a large river that obstructed them. It was about midnight when they went along the deserted streets, lighted fitfully by the few lamps […]. The graceful pile of cathedral architecture rose dimly on their left hand, but it was lost upon them now (Hardy 1978: 483).

10As for Stevens who dutifully travels with the guidance of Mrs. Symons’s The Wonder of England, he cannot of course “fail to visit the fine cathedral, much praised […] in her volume” (RD 27). But his second vision of the town at dawn echoes the gloom, silence and solitude experienced by the two lovers:

[…] the light outside was still very pale and something of a mist was affecting my view of the baker’s shop and chemist’s opposite. Indeed, following the street further along to where it runs over the little round-backed bridge, I could see the mist rising from the river, obscuring almost entirely one of the bridge-posts. There was not a soul to be seen [...] (RD 47).

11The first wonder of Stevens’s trip is a two-faced impression, namely a holiday post-card on one side and a nightly and desolate image on the other.

12There is also something peculiar in the topographical and verbal near coincidence between Mortimer Pond in Dorset and Tess’s native village, Marlott, a coincidence in part made inevitable by the local road system; driving from Salisbury to Taunton, as Stevens does, necessarily takes the traveller through Shaftesbury, the Shaston Tess “had seen daily from her chamber window [...] standing majestically on its height” (Hardy 1978: 75). But the correspondence goes beyond the geographical clue and eventually connects two natural settings and two visions of the countryside. Hardy’s vale of Blackmoor was then “for the most part untrodden as yet by tourist or landscape-painter”, and “an unguided ramble into its recesses in bad weather is apt to engender dissatisfaction with its narrow, tortuous and miry ways”. Stevens as a tourist fully confirms Hardy’s fears and is obviously slightly annoyed when he finds himself “in a narrow lane, hemmed in on either side by foliage so that I could gain little idea of what was around me [...]” and keeps complaining about “[...] the lane winding quite sharply [...] the lane continued to wind for some distance [...]” (RD 117). In both Dorsets, the lanes are redundantly winding, the foliage is redundantly thick and blots out the sun, the adventurous visitor is confronted with an untamed, attractive and tempting kind of nature, as happens to Stevens when he sees “the path disappearing into areas of deep mud”; only “thought of the possible catastrophes” (RD 121) for his shoes and travelling suit makes him resist the charm of the miry way.

13The similarity between both sceneries stirs new Hardyan memories, which appear central to both novels, though obviously apprehended and treated differently. One of the main formal and thematic motives in Tess is the conflict and combination of the old and the new, of the fake and the ‘sterling’, which is an all-important aspect of the Alec-Tess relationship; as is the fact that “John Durbeyfield was the only lineal representative of the old d’Urberville family existing in the county” (Hardy 1985: 78), that Tess’s name therefore is ‘true’ while Alec’s is only a pretence even if his “family formed a very good stock whereon to regraft a name which sadly wanted such renovation” (Ibidem). A true-false dialectics emerges with great force in The Remains of the Day, where the theme appears displaced along different axes but still reflects some Hardyan features. The ‘old’ and the ‘real’ belong to the universe of Lord Darlington, of the family Hall, of the butler; they have to give way to the American Mr. Farraday, the house’s new owner, whose name ‘repeats’ the English scientist’s with the difference of an ‘r’, and whose arrival in Darlington generates the distinction between the ‘fake’ and the ‘real’ thing. Mock is the arch of the dining-room doorway, or believed to be: “This arch here looks seventeenth century, but isn’t it the case that it was built quite recently? [...] It looks to me like it’s mock. very skilful, but mock” (RD 123); as mock aristocratic, no doubt, are The Slopes where everything is like “the last coin issued from the Mint”, disproving Tess’s belief that the D’Urbervilles “were an old family” (Hardy 1985: 77). The suspicion they could be an imitation, a vulgar copy of the ‘authentic’ weighs on Darlington Hall and its butler: “I mean to say, Stevens, this is a genuine grand old English house, isn’t it? That’s what I paid for. And you’re a genuine old-fashioned English butler, not just some waiter pretending to be one. You’re the real thing, aren’t you?” (RD 124). Mr. Farraday and Mr. Stoke have both ‘paid their way’ to own a past which is not theirs. The basic crux true-fake then winds and unwinds in various specific modes, but remains a focal point in both narrations and plots.

14The end of the two novels again invites comparison. None of the Hardyan sense of doom and tragedy is to be found in Ishiguro; his narrator Stevens is too constrained to give vent to passion. But the last chapter certainly conveys a strong sense of missed chance, last occasion, ruined life; and it also contains one of the rare outbursts of feelings, or rather the only one, that Stevens allows himself to articulate: “Indeed – why should I not admit it? – at that moment, my heart was breaking” (RD 239); he then translates his pain into the usual understated text: “[…] It is too late to turn back the clock” (RD 239). On the other hand, Tess’s torture is of a deeper and different sort, yet she too is heart-broken, though less resigned. Her pain cries out in few words of despair when she meets Angel again in Sandbourne. Doom and loss abound in there as in Weymouth.

  • 3 Hillis Miller supports this assertion on the linguistic process as described by J.J. Rousseau, “les (...)

15The butler’s last stop before home, Weymouth, may have ceased to be fashionable in 1956, but in some of Stevens’ descriptions it is very similar indeed to Sandbourne, “the glittering novelty” (Hardy 1985: 77), the pleasure town. The town, piers, pine-groves, promenades, appeared to Angel Clare “like a fairy place suddenly created by the stroke of a wand […]” (Ibidem); Stevens is less naive but obviously impressed by the lights judging from the repetitions; lights as balls of various colors; lights starting to come along the shore (RD 231); the pier lights have been switched on (RD 244); he is also very much struck by “the happiness of the pleasure seekers gathering on this pier” (RD 244) and by the enjoyment of all those who “are laughing together merrily” (RD 245). Weymouth, too, stands as a glittering city of pleasure and pain, a displaced Sandbourne. Other suggestions of crossroads could be investigated, such as letter-writing and misinterpretation, or the ballad element present in both texts, none of which are to be understood as the mechanical reproduction of identities, but rather as history, or literature, repeating itself with a difference. But this is not the place for such a labyrinthine inquiry; let it be stressed only that in spite of the unquestionable ‘novelty’ and freshness of Ishiguro’s prose, his third novel can also be perceived as a metaphor and a re-reading of the English narrative tradition: “Each word inheres in a labyrinth of branching interverbal relationships going back not to a referential source, but to something already, at the beginning, a figurative transfer [...]” (Hillis Miller 1976: 70)3.

1.3. Intrigue and conspiracy

16Still another motive is woven in the butler’s fabric of words; it springs from the very setting of the novel, Darlington Hall, and its central function in Stevens’ lifestory. We are dealing here with what may be considered a ‘minor’ genre, but one endowed in England with a long and noble story, which includes Mansfield and Netherfield Parks, incidentally touches on the Thornfield of Jane Eyre and the Grange of Middlemarch, finds new life in James and Forster and eventually branches out in different directions altogether:

[…] there is an obvious change in, for example, the country-houses of Henry James, which have become the house-parties of a metropolitan and international social round, the stage-settings of a more general social drama [...]. But the true fate of the country-house novel was its evolution into the middleclass detective story. It was in its very quality of abstraction, and yet of superficially impressive survival, that the country-house could be made the place of isolated assembly of a group of people whose immediate and transient relations were decipherable by an abstract mode of detection [...] (Williams 1975: 298).

17An archetype of the genre, Darlington Hall is at the same time the observation post and the object of the narration; as a place of social life, it fulfills the requirements of the most exacting master of ceremonies: its guests, both metropolitan and international, among whom one should remember J. Maynard Keynes and H.G. Wells as well as G.B. Shaw, Lord Halifax and an embarassing German ambassador, Ribbentrop, meet at the house and stroll in its grounds. The grounds themselves bear the signs of a constant struggle against the disorder of an untamed nature, and testify to the age-old culture of ‘improvement’. The gardens must be very harmonious, as so many English gardens are: “The shadows of the poplar trees had fallen across much of the lawn, but the sun was still lighting up the far corner where the grass sloped up to the summer house” (RD 67). The generosity of nature is controlled but not banned, in the best eighteenth-century manner, and even though there are many man-made paths and steps in Darlington, the ‘glory of nature’, however, is conveyed by a “large rhododendron bush” (RD 89) or “the magical quality of the view” (RD 49). Darlington Hall is part of a world where country-houses were still powerful social and political units, which is why Stevens extlaims with pride: “History could well be made under this roof” (RD 77); and the more isolated and secretive they were, the greater the part they played on the public stage: “[…] debates are conducted, and crucial decisions arrived at, in the privacy and calm of the great houses of this country. What occurs in the public gaze with so much pomp and ceremony is often the conclusion, or mere ratification, of what has taken place over weeks or months within the walls of such houses” (RD 115). Ishiguro does not stop at the representation of this rather early stage of the genre; the country-house novel, reluctantly and imperceptibly acquires some features of the detective novel and of the espionage story. The 1929 international conference which takes place at the Hall offers a perfect setting for this gradual sliding into the roman policier. The names of the guests are not to be revealed, and Stevens has to make sure that “the staff did not learn their identities, or in some cases even glimpse them” (RD 74); bodyguards can be seen around the house, “staring suspiciously in all directions a few yards from wherever the Italian gentleman happened to be” (RD 88), and Stevens eavesdrops into a private conversation which contains “something unmistakably covert” and of an “alarming nature” (RD 95). The detective story then borders on the political-humanitarian novel with lingering touches of the spy-story, true again to Williams’ analysis: “In very recent times, it (the country-house) had been leased as a centre for criminal planning or espionage or the secret police” (1975: 299). As years go by, the idealistic-political-detective novel degenerates into a less reassuring collaborationism story full of ugly political implications, and Lord Darlington carelessly compromising himself with Sir Oswald Mosley’s ‘blackshirts’ organization, antisemitism and hospitality from the nazis, up to the point at which “[…] his lordship is discussing the idea of His Majesty himself visiting Herr Hitler [...]” (RD 225). We have moved a long way fom Jane Austen’s tamed nature and well-bred conversation.

18Thus, The Remains of the Day ties and unties a few among the major tendencies of the English tradition (not to mention other deliberate or random allusions, as the obvious P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves ...). Ishiguro fishes into the huge store of the British literary memory, and catches some of its more typical and best-loved items. But, heaping them up in the same narrative framework, he subverts their meanings, undermines their image and neutralizes their Britishness.

2. A world of tricks and tricksters

2.1 Truth and error

19One could perform the tedious task of counting the many occurrences of the adjective ‘true’ and of its fellow noun ‘truth’. But there is no need to demonstrate what naturally emerges from the pages of the novel: that one of its most relevant lexical and semantic areas grows and flourishes around the verbal cluster ‘true, truth, real’ which is used and manipulated in all its posible colourings and derivations. Stevens is constantly preoccupied and baffled by what, truly and verily, is ‘the status of a ‘great’ butler (RD 30, 31). Does it mean enjoying an “association with a truly distinguished household” (which brings us back to the problem of defining ‘truly’); or does it involve applying one’s “talent to serving a great gentleman – and through the latter, to serving humanity”? (RD 117). Stevens is endlessly groping for a norm, for the ontological foundation and the ultimate truth of his profession, for the distinction between the “essential and the trimmings” (RD 35); in his search for truth he is only partially enlightened by the pronouncements of the Hayes Society (where the deontological rules of butlership are supposed to be set) or by his father’s example, which, though both close to perfection, nevertheless afford no stable and reliable rule. Stevens’ obsession with truth and authenticity is shared by most of the other characters, important and secondary ones, though sometimes in more frivolous ways: Mr. Farraday and his quest for the “genuine old-fashioned English butler” (RD 124) or the butler’s newly-made friends in Devon who decide that he is a true gentleman, or again Lord Darlington complaining that the treaty of Versailles is “making a liar” out of him and that none of the promises made to his German friend “turned out to be true” (RD 73). Truth is therefore constantly evoked, mentioned, looked for, alluded to and somehow never obtained; it invades the text as a constant though unattainable and undefined object. The words which implicitly refer to an ontological quality, or what C. Norris calls an “age-old legislative claim” (1985: 4) are numberless and all contribute to draw the quantitatively essential though far from clear ethical landscape of the novel. As a start, as always in Ishiguro’s writings, people are very often right or wrong. “So, Mr. Stevens, it seems you were right and I was wrong” is Miss Kenton’s bitter comment when one of her favourite maids elopes with the second footman (RD 158); and ‘wrong’ again is the dismissal of the Jewish maids (RD 148) for racial reasons, which Lord Darlington himself, a ‘true’ English gentleman, will admit to a year later: “It was wrong, what occurred” (RD 151).

20Implied and undefined rules also frame domestic and daily life, where every action, gesture or decision seem to be necessarily appropriate/inappropriate (RD 11, 53), opportune/inopportune (RD 14), proper/improper (RD 147, 151), correct/incorrect (RD 57).

21The lexicon of ontological values and of the implied law naturally generates a connected semantic area based on the infraction of the law/rule/truth. Errors are laid as snares everywhere – all the more so since truth is so elusive serious or unimportant, to be made or avoided. They plague Stevens’ life, as his master’s before him, who “chose a certain path (that) proved to be a misguided one [...]” (RD 243), and do not appear to find solution. The word ‘error’, with its quasi-moral colouring is very often relayed by ‘mistake’, which in its turn leads to an entire paradigm, of mis-prefixed nouns/verbs ranging from a “misjudged situation” (RD 16) to a “misplaced respectfulness” (RD 17), from a misguided idealism and thinking (RD 200) to various unfortunate misunderstandings (RD 200, 193, 175). To be added to these already numerous examples is a crucial misreading of Miss Kenton’s letter: “I may as well say here that having reread her letter again tonight, I am inclined to believe I may well have read more into certain of her lines than perhaps was wise” (RD 180). Ishiguro’s clear predilection for the prefixed particle ‘mis’ impresses a strong mark on the text and on its main characters, who are all, sadly, ironically or dramatically, ‘misreaders’.

22The novel therefore offers a strange mixture of contradictory languages, in which ethically charged words coexist or even coincide with a lexical stratum of a different nature. For the mis-prefixed words hover dangerously between two semantic areas: the world of moral law (mistake, misbehaviour ...) on one hand, and the sphrere of semiotics and hermeneutics on the other (misreading, misinterpretation …)

2.2 Mischief and misunderstanding

23The act of misreading is inevitable in a world which is full of tricks and where nothing is ever what and how it appears to be. The first and worst trick to be found in the novel is the treaty of Versailles, which lies at the core and origin of the various plots and foregrounds the themes of betrayal and deceit, already central in Ishiguro’s previous works. History and fiction are easily mingled, J.M. Keynes stands out among the guests at Darlington Hall and is presumably very influential since Lord Darlington’s reflections on the political situation bear a close resemblance to the main ideas of The Economic Consequences Of The Peace. It is also interesting that the themes of double-talk, truth-masking and betrayal should emerge so strongly and resentfully in Keynes’ own words:

Then began the weaving of that web of sophistry and Jesuitical exegesis that was finally to close with insincerity the language and substance of the whole treaty [...]; the subtlest sophisters and most hypocritical draftsmen were set to work and produced many ingenious exercises which might have deceived for more than an hour a cleverer man than the President (Keynes 1919: 47).

24Keynes shows little sympathy and less indulgence for a treaty which stands against truth, both of a moral and economic kind: “[…] strict veracity (is) inconsistent with the demand of patriotism” (1919: 119); a treaty which is in itself a betrayal: “German commentators had little difficulty in showing that the draft Treaty constituted a breach of engagements and of international morality comparable with their own offence in the invasion of Belgium” (Ivi 59). The economist also censures Wilson, the weak President who has betrayed his own intentions as well as the general expectations: “The disillusion was so complete that some of those who had trusted most hardly dared speak of it. Could it be true? [...] What had happened to the President? What weakness or what misfortune had led to so extraordinary, so unlooked- for a betrayal?” (Ivi: 35).

25Lie, truth, betrayal and deceit run through the pages of the novel in the same ways and combinations as in the Paris conference. Darlington feels he has been mightily deceived: far as I understood, I wasn’t taking part in a vendetta against the German race” (RD 73). His ’lawful’ and just reaction to the barbarous treaty then leads him into more sinister misinterpretations. In 1932, he will be seduced into a short acquaintance with Sir Oswald Mosley, who visited the Hall “on three occasions at the most”, and before the blackshirts’ movement “had betrayed its true nature” (RD 137); unfortunately, this brief delusion makes him sack two Jewish maids, a mistake he will appreciate a year later and try, unsuccessfully, to repair. A misreader Darlington once again proves to be since he is ‘taken in’ by Ribbentrop, ‘a trickster’, and believes him to be “an honourable gentleman and develops a working relationship with him” (RD 136). This error carries him a long way, until he unwittingly becomes single most useful pawn Herr Hitler has had in this country for his propaganda tricks” and the organizer and host of a meeting to discuss the idea of His Majesty himself visiting Herr Hitler” (RD 224-225). A “sincere and honourable man”, Darlington loses his way in the maze of history and “doesn’t recognize the true nature of what he is doing” (RD 224).

26Stevens is, dramatically, another misreader, who, having “trusted in his Lordship’s wisdom” (RD 243) entirely and uncritically, is now unable to see that his master is “doing anything other than which (was) highest and noblest” (RD 225). But the most important episode of misreading is linked to Miss Kenton’s letter, which sets Stevens on his journey and which he reads again and again, gradually and pathetically moving from a strong reading to a weakened one. this very moment, no doubt, she is pondering with regret decisions made in the far-off past that have now left her, deep in middle age, so alone and desolate. And it is easy to see how in such a frame of mind, the thought of returning to Darlington Hall would be a great comfort to her” (RD 48); such is Stevens’ first reading, clear from doubt, convinced that there is an “unmistakable message conveyed by the general nuance of many of the passages, imbued as they are with a deep nostalgia for her days at Darlington Hall” (RD 48). This early conviction is destined to fade by degrees into something more hermeneutically sceptical which he calls “endless speculating” (RD 180).

2.3 A slippery language

27Politics, people, professional ethics, the public world and the private one are puzzling texts, the deciphering of which is tentative and risky. It is therefore easy to be misled, and just as easy to mislead, uttering ambiguous messages which bear little resemblance to their reference. Ishiguro’s speaker is a great manipulator of language, an expert in rhetorical strategies; but unlike the ancient rhetoricians, Stevens’ elaborate tropes get him nowhere; they only add to the general semantic uncertainty of the novel. Stevens’ range of rhetorical devices divide into two apparently contradictory groups, periphrasis and litotes. The periphrastic mania (bordering on the metaphorical) is at its best exemplified in the ludicrous episode in which Stevens is asked to tell young Reginald about ‘the facts of life’. It all starts with Darlington’s initial incapacity to ‘refer’ and come to the point; his reluctance to formulate is already an invitation to equivocate: “The facts of life, Stevens. Birds, bees” (RD 82). The butler promptly takes over his employer’s circumlocution: “[…] flowers and shrubs. This is not in fact the best time of the year to see them in their full glory, but you will appreciate, sir, that with the arrival of spring, we will see a change – a very special sort of change – in these surroundings” (RD 90). It is difficult to imagine a wider gap between a signifier and its reference, a more opaque and less economic message, and one in such open contradiction with Darlington’s advice to Stevens: “Simple approach is the best” (RD 83).

28Litotes are just as efficient in creating miscomprehension or raising barriers between people. Stevens’ litotes are sometimes so radical as to assume the form of silence, as in the dismissal of the Jewish maids which he had handled with unexpressed disapproval: “[…] The whole matter caused me great concern, great concern indeed – ‘Then why, Mr. Stevens, did you not tell me so at the time?’ [...] ‘Naturally, one disapproved of the dismissals. One would have thought that quite selfevident’” (RD 154). Another recurrent feature of Stevens’ linguistic practice is the understatement, which he generally uses to mitigate the harshness of reality, and often indicates those faults he is willing to overlook; his father’s errors, as well as his own, typically become “trivial slips” (RD 56) and Lord Darlington’s oratorial and diplomatic blunders are referred to as “a little unfortunate” (RD 98). The understatement is often conveyed by a non-committing double negation which is Stevens’ favorite mode of expressing assertion: sums of money are “not unconsiderable” rather than large (RD 6) and a “not unperturbed” mind (RD 147) is always preferable to a troubled one.

  • 4 See de Man: “It remains something of a mystery how rhetorical figures have been so minutely describ (...)
  • 5 For an accurate exposition of the state of the problem, see the chapter entitled Sense, Reference a (...)

29Bombast and deflation imply a distortion in the communication between characters4 and, more crucially perhaps, a disturbance in the already complex relationship sign/meaning/reference5, which is never achieved in a satisfactory way as shown by the pathetic and continuous attempts to fill the word “dignity” with a reliable meaning, or by the disagreements concerning the sense of words: “What you describe as ‘amateurism’, sir, is what I think most of us prefer to call ‘honour’” (RD 103). Throughout The Remains of the Day an unquenched aspiration keeps emerging, a thirst for a definition to arrest the drift of floating words.

3. Signs and semanticians

30Not only is language a volatile reality, the ultimate meaning of which can never be pinned down; but life as a whole manifests itself in an equivocal way, not through definite things, res, substantial elements, but through signs which are hopelessly unclear and ambiguous. To Stevens’ mind the gateway to the understanding or misunderstanding of people lies in their appearance, from the marks printed on their faces or bodies to the clothes they wear, from their looks to their expression and gestures. Darlington’s German friend, for instance, is thus ‘read through’ – and typically misread: “His clothes became increasingly impoverished, his frame thinner; a hunted look appeared in his eyes [ ...]. I would have concluded Herr Bremann was suffering from some serious illness, but for certain remarks his lordship made at this time assuring me this was not so” (RD 71). Signs again literally and redundantly invade certain pages, for example when Stevens is forced to realize, however reluctantly, that Miss Kenton will eventually leave the Hall to get married; they might be “little signs” or “nebulous signs”, but it is difficult to deny that “[…] indeed these signs tended to support Mr. Graham’s notion that Miss Kenton was contemplating departing for romantic purposes [...]” (RD 171). The butler’s final meeting with Miss Kenton starts with the affectionate study of her face, and as the hours go by, it is thanks to the reappearance of familiar signs that Stevens feels an intimacy is renewed: “But it was not so much the content of our conversation as the little smiles she gave at the end of utterances, her small ironic inflexions here and there, certain gestures with her shoulders and her hands, which began to recall unmistakably the rhythms and habits of our conversations from all those years ago” (RD 233). A large part of interpersonal communication is entrusted to a system of signs, some extremely commonplace, like the brilliance of silver which “served as a public index of a house’s standards” (RD 134); some more private and peculiar ones, such as Darlington’s habit of signalling his wish to talk to the butler by reading a book: “Lord Darlington called me into his study, and I could see at once that he was in a state of some agitation. He seated himself at his desk and, as usual, resorted to holding open a book – this time it was Who’s Who turning a page to and fro” (RD 81). Signs again are expected to show on the face of Stevens’ father to express weariness (RD 61); a system of conventional signs is agreed on by the guests at the conference, who, to achieve the “appearance of informality [...] had actually gone to the lengths of having journals and newspapers open on their knees” (RD 92). The whole matter of the novel is subject to this giddying transformation into signs, which, as anyone knows, are double and untrustworthy entities, at the same time able to lead to the truth and to hide it. They become truth maskers when they transform Stevens into a real gentleman: “It’s not just the cut of your clothes There’s something else that marks you as a gentleman. Hard to put your finger on it, but it’s plain for all to see that’s got eyes” (RD 185); but they reveal truth when they tell the tale of Miss Kenton’s weariness or of Mr. Lewis’ duplicity (RD 87). Through signs, reality only appear or seems, but never is. Signs therefore exist in an implicit and intense relationship with truth, being at the same time an access and a screen, an open door and a barrier. This contradictory status is especially relevant in a context where errors and mistakes amount to permanent threat. As a reader of signs – an interpreter of the world, a critic of texts – Stevens is very cautious and continuously uncertain whether and how to move from the sign to the meaning. He himself is the first object of this constantly defeated hermeneutic activity: “In any case, I have now come to accept that the incident with the batman is not the first of its kind; there is little doubt it has some connection though I am not quite clear of the nature of it – with what occurred a few months ago [...]” (RD 122). As for the rest of the world, the observation of its signs (often made fragmentary by Stevens’s professional demands and discretion) only yields doubts and scepticism: everything remains for ever to tell” and Stevens forever uncertain (RD 93).

31During the last two decades we have witnessed the violent challenge of ‘authoritative discourses’, and foremost among these, the philosophical one; as a result, philosophers have turned increasingly ‘literary’ in mode and tone, and so has philosophy, or at least some of it, forced to “give up its delusions of intellectual grandeur [...] and to regard itself as just another voice in the medley of present day cultural exchange” (Norris 1985: 3). Living as we do in an era of confused boundaries between disciplines, might it not be the case that novelists are endorsing the task of philosophy? In other words, The Remains of the Day strikes me as a rather philosophical novel, a dramatic and moving story about the uncertainties of language, or, to use the jargon of logics, about the Fregean triangular relationship between sign, meaning and reference. Stevens’ life adventure resembles that of a defeated semantician, his impotence reflects his incapacity to cope with the theory of communication, his erring lies between the three poles of the triangle (sign, meaning reference), his illusion is to solve the enigma of language, his attempt is to adjust representation and reality, verba (sign and meaning) and res (reference). Or perhaps, a different formulation could be used, and a similarity found between the butler’s pursuit of truth and the infinite flight (dérive) of meaning as described, a long time before its appropriation by deconstruction, by Peirce:

He (Peirce) insists on the necessary presence of a third element, called the interpretant, within any relationship that the sign entertains with its object. The sign is to be interpreted if we are to understand the idea it is to convey, and this is so because the sign is not the thing but a meaning derived from the thing by a process here called representation, that is not simply generative, i.e dependant on a univocal origin. The interpretation of the sign is not, for Peirce, a meaning but another sign; it is a reading, not a decOdage, and this reading has in its turn to be interpreted into another sign, and so on, ad infinitum (de Man 1979: 9).

32Ishiguro’s tale, true to the self-reflective vocation of the twentiethcentury novel, offers a meditation on language and communication, on the relationship between form, sense and reality in a deconstructed western world; it is a semiotic tragi-comedy.

4. Another sign, another sense

  • 6 My statistics are of course pragmatic, and founded on fifteen enthusiastic French reviews (L’Expres (...)

33Ishiguro, however, is not exactly, or not only, a deconstructed westerner, though he has always been careful to steer clear of any easy assimilation to Japanese culture or heritage; and even if The Remains of the Day has been acclaimed in some countries6 as a monument of pure Britishness, I shall take the risk of dissenting, or of dissenting partially, and point out a few elements which, if they do not denote any ‘atavism’ or generic ‘belonging’, certainly show a specific attention to oriental ways and modes. This implies returning to the theme, already touched on above, of men (butlers) who mistook “the superficial for the essence” (RD 34), which also appears as a dichotomy between “trimmings” and “basic fundamentals” (RD 35). The superficial/essence motif then re-emerges, which somehow attests to its importance, dressed up as a theatre-pantomime simile (RD 42, 169, 184), or as the connected image of cloth/nakedness (RD 169, 184, 210). Both metaphors have a long and intricate story in western literature, both are particularly central in Shakespeare. M. Berman sees King Lear as the first apparition and definition of the dialectics of nakedness: “For Lear, naked truth is what man is forced to face when he has lost everything that other men can take away except life itself” (1982: 106). Berman then explains, in a chapter emblematically called Nakedness: the unaccomodated man, how in the western metaphorical (and metaphysical) system (Shakespeare, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Marx), clothes have “become the emblem of the old, illusory mode of life; nakedness comes to signify the newly discovered and experienced truth; and the act of taking off one’s clothes becomes an act of spiritual liberation, of becoming real” (Ibidem). Undressing is therefore the condition of truth and authenticity. This occidental pattern of dichotomy doesn’t suit Ishiguro, nor he the pattern. Of course, the dialectical opposition inside/outside, role/reality is formally present in the novel, but continually neutralized or undermined, at least in its western ethical implications of truth/falsehood. The polarity is first treated in a traditional way (RD 34), the equation respects the model, trimmings = false and fundamentals = truth. Stevens then remembers with great respect an episode of his father’s life where, having had to wait on a hated and hateful gentleman, he had gone through the ordeal with exemplary professionality: “[…] so well did my father hide his feelings, so professionally did he carry out his duties, that on his departure the General had actually complimented Mr John Silvers on the excellence of his butler and had left an unusually large tip in appreciation – which my father without hesitation asked his employer to donate to a charity” (RD 42). The ethical valences of the traditional metaphor is then turned upside down:

Lesser butlers will abandon their professional being for the private one at the least provocation. For such persons, being a butler is like playing some pantomime role; a small push, a slight stumble, and the fagade will drop off to reveal the actor underneath. The great butlers are great by virtue of their ability to inhabit their professional role and to inhabit it to the utmost; they will not be shaken out by external events, however surprising, alarming or vexing (RD 43).

34The true/false ethical opposition has no relevance in this example, or if it has, it is in a capsized way: the more one is masked, the more one hides one’s private feelings, the truer to the essence of butlership, to ‘dignity’. What is ‘wrong’, untrue to the ‘basic fundamentals’ is here the expression of the inner nature of the self, which in this case is expressed in a strangely violent way for Stevens’ usually moderate verbal standards: his father’s feelings towards the General are “those of utmost loathing” (RD 41). Barthes’ words on the Japanese theatre, (admittedly a western vision of Japan!) may help one to understand how Ishiguro’s conception of sign/expression is suspended between two acceptations and cultures. In L’Empire des signes, the French scholar draws a radical opposition between the function of western theatre, which is to express what is secret, feelings and conflicts, and the Bunkaru master of the Japanese tradition: “[…] son visage est offert à la lecture des spectateurs; mais ce qui est soigneusement, précieusement donné lire, c’est qu’il n’y a rien à lire; on retrouve ici cette exemption du sens, que nous pouvons à peine comprendre, puisque chez nous, attaquer le sens, c’est le cacher ou l’inverser, mais jamais l’absenter” (1970: 81); the written face of the Japanese actor does not express anything, betray any emotion, convey any hidden meaning: his essence rests in his appearance. Ishiguro’s ambivalence in the treatment of this in/out dialectics is evident again in the episode of the Jewish maids. To Miss Kenton’s ‘western’ reasoning, Stevens is only radically divided between truth and appearances: “Why, Mr Stevens, why why why do you always have to pretend?” (RD 154); whereas Stevens’s silent, self evident disapproval cannot be inscribed in such an opposition. Similarly, Stevens’ omission of the truth about his past as Lord Darlington’s butler does not mean that he is “just some waiter pretending” (RD 124) to be a real English butler, but again that the essence of the real butler is to reconcile the inner self and the outer self, to inhabit “his role” (RD 169): “If I may put it that way, sir, it is a little akin to the custom as regards marriages. If a divorced lady were present in the company of her second husband, it is often thought desirable not to allude to the original marriage at all. There is a similar custom as regards our profession, sir” (RD 125). Stevens’ role playing is double; under western eyes, it is metaphysically pregnant and reveals a divorce between inner and outer self. Seen through a Japanese filter, it is only the blurring of the distinction between form and content, in and out, ethics and esthetics. The cloth-metaphor is dealt with in a similar way. Clothes can be the instrument of deception, as is the case for Mr Lindsay who had “a fine house and good suits” (RD 184) but was no gentleman. But they can ‘dress up the character’, as Lord Darlington’s “splendid suits” (RD 10) clothe Stevens, transforming him into a gentleman; which is why Stevens’ repeated definition of ‘dignity’ as “not removing one’s clothes in public”, or why the necessity to “inhabit one’s role” is twofold: it is the sign of an emotional paralysis, of a pathetic subservience to empty roles; but it is also a sign come from elsewhere, which tells of a culture where signs cannot be distinguished from sense and viceversa.

35Ishiguro’s main character is submitted to two modes of being. In the first one, Stevens pretends, lies, plays a pantomime with his employer’s clothes, literally veils his truthful identity. In the other mode, he lets Mrs. Wakefield believe that he is a fake butler, the villagers that he is a real gentleman, Miss Kenton that he has antisemitic feelings: no truth is to be urevealed, there is nothing to unveil, no ultimate reason behind the screen. “Indeed, it seems to me that my odd conduct can be very plausibly explained in terms of my wish to avoid any possibility of hearing any further such nonsense concerning his lordship” (RD 126): no person could be further away from the mystic of the naked truth and Stevens bears little resemblance to western man who “topologiquement est réputé double, composé d’un ‘extérieur’ social, factice, faux et d’un ‘intérieur’ personnel, authentique” (Barthes 1970: 81). Stevens’ manners, style, dress no doubt mean frustration, hypocrisy and cowardice; but they also are the far away reflection of Japanese courtesy, the expression of “un code fort mais signifiant ‘rien’ “ (Ivi: 86).

36Other examples of double-belonging come to mind. Why is Stevens’ syntax so elaborate, so un-English in its lack of concision, its continuous incapacity to refer directly to its object and its mania for delay and procrastination? A form of impotence, for sure; but could it not be also the shadow of the Japanese language with which Ishiguro is familiar enough to know that “la prolifération des suffixes fonctionnels et la complexité des enclitiques supposent que le sujet s’avance dans l’énonciation å travers des précautions, des reprises, des retards et des insistances dont le volume final [...] fait précisément du sujet une grande enveloppe vide de la parole” (Barthes 1970: 12). Stevens’ sentences, which appear so reluctant to assert and so keen on circumlocutions, can be compared to these Japanese presents which show a disproportion between the elaborate wrappings and the modesty of their content: “On peut déja voir une véritable méditation sémantique dans le moindre paquet japonais [...] d’enveloppe en enveloppe, le signifié fuit et lorsqu’enfin on le tient (il y a toujours un petit quelque chose dans le paquet) il apparait insignifiant, dérisoire, vil: le plaisir, champ du signifiant, a été pris” (Barthes 1970: 61). Still another feature of the novel bears a surprisingly Japanese affinity: the graphic quality of the landscapes. Just as the Japanese boundary between handwriting and drawing is not clear (“Où commence l’écriture, où commence la peinture?” [1970: 31]), Stevens is always tempted to read the English landscape in terms of signs designed on a blank page. The word ‘line’ recurs very often in his descriptions, either single (“line of telegraph poles”, RD 237) or variously arranged in nouns (“skyline”, RD 68, 160) or verbs (“outline”, RD 161), and so do similar graphic notations as for instance “silhouette” (RD 133). The fishing scene in Mortimer’s pond is transcribed into a graphic game of light, shades and lines: “[...] various figures seated quietly with their fishing rods at various points around the water [...] the strong lights and shades created by the low-hanging branches prevent me from making any of them out clearly [...]” (RD 121). But the most striking instance of a possible oriental affiliation is the butler’s consideration on the greatness of the English landscape. His words on this occasion bear the mark of a taste founded on the suspension of meaning, on its unobtrusiveness, almost on its absence: would say that it is the very lack of obvious drama or spectacle that sets the beauty of our land apart” (RD 28). Barthes’ words on the Japanese countryside convey the similar idea of beauty achieved through emptiness and void: “On dirait qu’une technique séculaire permet au paysage ou au spectacle de se produire dans une pure signifiance, abrupte, vide, comme une cassure […]. Le contenu est congédié sans retour” (1970: 146). Both landscapes point at some kind of supremacy of sign over meaning.

37At the end of the novel, having tried unsuccessfully to join in the merry-making and joke-cracking both with his American employer, Mr Farraday, or with the Taunton villagers, and being defeated in his laborious attempts to play with words, Stevens understands that [...] it is indeed time I (he) began to look at this whole matter of bantering more enthusiatically [...] if it is the case that in bantering lies the key to human warmth” (RD 245). Stevens’s trip ends with a melancholic wishful thought, which, considering his inability to practise verbal jokes, is not exactly reassuring as to his destiny. It is an appropriately semantic ending to a problematically semantic story, for what is ‘bantering’ but quickly moving from a literal meaning to a figurative, from a sign to a sense and vice versa, and exploring the possibilities of language? The novel reaches an ending, but not the loneliness of the semantician.



Primary literature

Ishiguro K., 1989, The Remains of the Day, London-Boston, Faber and Faber. All quotations from the text will be indicated with RD followed by page number within brackets in the text.

Secondary literature

Barthes R., 1970, L’empire des signes, Paris-Genève, Skira-Flammarion.

Berman M., 1982, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity, Harmondsworth, Penguin.

De Man P., 1979, Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke and Proust, New Haven-London, Yale University Press.

De Man P., 1983, Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism, London, Methuen (1971).

Fielding H., 1985, Tom Jones, Harmondsworth, Penguin (1749).

Hardy T., 1978, Tess of the d’Urbevilles, Harmondsworth, Penguin (1891).

Hillis Miller J., 1976, “Ariadne’s Thread: Repetition and the Narrative Line,” Critical Inquiry 3.1: 55-77.

Hillis Miller J., 1982, Fiction and Repetition: Seven English Novels, Oxford, Blackwell.

Keynes J.M., 1919, The Economic Consequences of Peace, London, Macmillan.

Norris C., 1985, Contest of Faculties: Philosophy and Theory After Deconstruction, London-New York, Methuen.

Rousseau J.J., “Essai sur l’Origine des Langues,” supplement au n. 8 de Les Cahiers pour l’Analyse, Bibliothèque du Graphe, Paris 1967 (1781).

Rushdie S., 1989, “Review to The Remains of the Day”, The Observer, 21.5.1989: 53.

Starobinski J., 1971, Les Mots sous les mots. Les anagrammes de Ferdinand de Saussure, Paris, Gallimard.

Williams R., 1975, The Country and the City, London Paladin (1973).


1 K. Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day, London - Boston, Faber and Faber, 1984. The novel shuns summary, as most novels do, it is formally the memoir of an English butler, Stevens, who looks back on his orderly life, unexpressed loves and limited experiences, during a short journey in the south of England. The time span of the novel more or less covers thirty years, but the narration naturally jumbles chronology and memories.

2 The novel Hillis Miller has in mind at this specific stage of his first chapter is Lord Jim, but the whole book explicitly tends to demonstrate the ‘universality’ of these seven types of repetition.

3 Hillis Miller supports this assertion on the linguistic process as described by J.J. Rousseau, “les premiers motifs qui firent parler l’homme furent des passions, ses premières expressions furent des tropes. Le langage figuré fut le premier à naitre, le sens propre fut trouvé le dernier […]. D’abord on ne parla qu’en poésie; on ne s’avisa de raisonner que longtemps après […]. L’image illusoire offerte par la passion se montrant la le langage qui lui répondait fut aussi le premier inventé” (1967: 506).

4 See de Man: “It remains something of a mystery how rhetorical figures have been so minutely described and classified over the centuries with relatively little attention paid to their mischievous powers over truth and falsehood of statements” (1981: 74).

5 For an accurate exposition of the state of the problem, see the chapter entitled Sense, Reference and Logic in Norris (1985).

6 My statistics are of course pragmatic, and founded on fifteen enthusiastic French reviews (L’Express, Le Point, Le Nouvel Observateur, Le Figaro Magazine, Le Monde, Libération, Télérama and such like, February-March 1990). J.F. Fogel (Le Point) subtitles: “Kazuo Ishiguro, Stilton et sauce å la menthe”: “Il n’est pas japonais en dépit de son nom. Ishiguro est un “Goncourt” britannique et son livre, un monument de self-control”.

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