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The Remains of the Day (1989)

by Kazuo Ishiguro

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
14,654430317 (4.19)1 / 1311
The novel's narrator, Stevens, is a perfect English butler who tries to give his narrow existence form and meaning through the self-effacing, almost mystical practice of his profession. In a career that spans the second World War, Stevens is oblivious of the real life that goes on around him -- oblivious, for instance, of the fact that his aristocrat employer is a Nazi sympathizer. Still, there are even larger matters at stake in this heartbreaking, pitch-perfect novel -- namely, Stevens' own ability to allow some bit of life-affirming love into his tightly repressed existence.… (more)
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    What the Butler Saw: Two Hundred and Fifty Years of the Servant Problem by E. S. Turner (thorold)
    thorold: It's fascinating to put these two classic studies of the relationship between the English upper classes and their domestic servants side-by-side: one a delicate psychological novel, the other a gossipy work of social history.
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1980s (103)
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» See also 1311 mentions

English (392)  Spanish (8)  German (7)  Italian (5)  French (5)  Dutch (3)  Finnish (2)  Hebrew (1)  Japanese (1)  Catalan (1)  Danish (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (427)
Showing 1-5 of 392 (next | show all)
The Remains of the Day is the perfect atmospheric book, examining life through the lens of middle age. It is narrated by Stevens, a butler in post-war England. The book takes place over a few days when Stevens goes for a drive through the countryside to visit a former colleague. His reflections on the previous years and how time changes one’s perspective are poignant yet ultimately hopeful. ( )
  StaffPicks | Aug 3, 2022 |
A series of recollections of an aging butler as he drives across the country, about his life and relationship with the lord of the house lead to devastating self-discovery. Stevens reflects on moments in his, turning points that he was not aware of at the time, where he made critical decisions leading him to where he is presently. He comes to realize, at the very end, at his sunset days, that he has lived his life so attentive to the etiquette of his station that he has lost the opportunity to make decisions for himself and is now left with only the remains of the day.

Part of the beauty of the story is the presentation of the protagonist as an unreliable narrator, slowly coming into realizations and self discovery along with the reader. Stevens reminisces on these important moments, and the weight of them is so emotionally fraught he frequently retreats with off-topic detours. He talks frequently and at length about his thoughts on dignity and what it entails, without much clarity, seemly as a sort of self-preserving fiction designed to justify the self harming decisions he has made.

He comes to realize that it is this focus on dignity that has conditioned him into complicity in his class subservience. He simultaneously must let go of his illusions about Lord Darlington character. There is an interesting parallel in his attachment and faith in Lord Darlington to Lord Darlington's own willful oversight in his relationship with Nazis. Stevens ends up wistfully thinking 'His lordship was a courageous man. He chose a certain path in life, it proved to be a misguided one, but there, he chose it, he can say that at least. As for myself, I cannot even claim that. You see, I trusted. I trusted in his lordship's wisdom. All those years I served him, I trusted I was doing something worthwhile. I can't even say I made my own mistakes. Really - one has to ask oneself - what dignity is there in that?”

Stevens lack of emotional intelligence is emphasized in one anecdote where he is instructed to explain sex to one young, and soon to be married visitor to the estate. He is given this task after assuring the father of the young man that he does understand the mechanics. His lack of emotional intuition leads to the two having vastly different conversations, with Stevens realizing as they part that they have been speaking about two different issues.

Finally, 'I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of my day.' ( )
  mau3 | Jul 16, 2022 |
A quiet, beautifully-crafted book. The author uses language so delicately. At one point towards the end, the narrator is describing something that he experienced, and right in mid-sentence, when he describes something venturing into emotional territory, he switches from first person "I" to third-person "one." Brilliant. ( )
  AlainaZ | Jun 5, 2022 |
This sure was long for such a short book.

S

L

O

W ( )
  Tosta | Mar 15, 2022 |
A technical masterpiece about a WWI and WWI English butler, Mr. Stevens, who devotes his life to the dignity of serving Lord Darlington, an English gentleman with interest in world affairs. Mr. Stevens has a deep, unexpressed love for Miss Kenton, the head housekeeper, with whom he maintains a strained professional relationship with over the years until she leaves to marry. Almost 20 years later, Lord Darlington has passed away and the house has been sold to an American, Mr. Farraday, who insists Mr. Stevens take a vacation and go travel a bit while he is away.

Mr. Stevens takes the opportunity to go spend a week traveling to visit Miss Kenton who has written him. Her letter implies her marriage is over and she would like to return to employment at Darlington Hall.

The entire narrative is told with flashbacks wedged between Mr. Stevens' journey to visit Miss Kenton.

Ishiguro writes every scene in past tense--even the climax--which, at first, I thought would be in present tense. But Ishiguro chose to stick with the theme of looking back, and that included looking back at the near past as though it were something seen through a lens of very long ago. It is only in the last chapter that the narrative subtly shifts to present tense, and the full impact of the story unfolds beautifully.

( )
  AngelaLam | Feb 8, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 392 (next | show all)
We can work out the date of Stevens's expedition ... Ominous dates. ... the Suez crisis dominated British current affairs. ... Stevens is not returning to a golden evening ... there are no remains -- except in the sense of `corpse'.
added by KayCliff | editWhere was Rebecca shot?, John Sutherland (Mar 5, 1998)
 
The Remains of the Day is too much a roman à thèse, and a judgmental one besides. Compared to his astounding narrative sophistication, Ishiguro's message seems quite banal: Be less Japanese, less bent on dignity, less false to yourself and others, less restrained and controlled. The irony is that it is precisely Ishiguro's beautiful restraint and control that one admires, and, in the case of the last novel [The Remains of the Day], his nerve in setting up such a high-wire act for himself.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, Gabriele Annan (pay site) (Dec 7, 1989)
 
Kazuo Ishiguro's tonal control of Stevens' repressive yet continually reverberating first-person voice is dazzling. So is his ability to present the butler from every point on the compass: with affectionate humor, tart irony, criticism, compassion and full understanding. It is remarkable, too, that as we read along in this strikingly original novel, we continue to think not only about the old butler, but about his country, its politics and its culture.
 

» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ishiguro, Kazuoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bützow, HeleneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Daryab̄andi, NajafTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hawthorne, NigelReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kriek, BarthoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miteva, PravdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rybicki, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saracino, Maria AntoniettaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stiehl, HermannTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
West, DominicNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In memory of Mrs Lenore Marshall.
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It seems increasingly likely that I really will undertake the expedition that has been preoccupying my imagination now for some days.
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The English landscape at its finest—such as I saw this morning—possesses a quality that the landscapes of other nations, however more superficially dramatic, inevitably fail to possess. It is, I believe, a quality that will mark out the English landscape to any objective observer as the most deeply satisfying in the world, and this quality is probably best summed up by the term 'greatness.' And yet what precisely is this greatness? I would say that it is the very lack of obvious drama or spectacle that sets the beauty of our land apart. What is pertinent is the calmness of that beauty, its sense of restraint. It is as though the land knows of its own beauty, of its own greatness, and feels no need to shout it.
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The novel's narrator, Stevens, is a perfect English butler who tries to give his narrow existence form and meaning through the self-effacing, almost mystical practice of his profession. In a career that spans the second World War, Stevens is oblivious of the real life that goes on around him -- oblivious, for instance, of the fact that his aristocrat employer is a Nazi sympathizer. Still, there are even larger matters at stake in this heartbreaking, pitch-perfect novel -- namely, Stevens' own ability to allow some bit of life-affirming love into his tightly repressed existence.

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A butler looks back over his career at a fine English country house while on a trip to visit a former colleague.
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