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From Behind the Looking-Glass: Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let me Go and Beyond

De l’autre côté du miroir : Never Let me Go de Kazuo Ishiguro
Hélène Machinal et CEIMA (HCTI EA 4249)
p. 115-126

Résumés

L’article se propose de remettre en perspective les premiers romans d’Ishiguro pour montrer une continuité dans la réflexion de l’auteur portant sur la nature de la réalité. Dans un premier temps, nous nous pencherons sur la dimension géographique des textes de façon à tenter une cartographie de l’ailleurs chez l’auteur. La dimension introspective de la quête identitaire nous permettra ensuite d’introduire le motif obsessionnel de l’être et de sa représentation pour finalement suggérer que ce dernier roman d’Ishiguro marque un tournant décisif vers une réflexion éthique et collective.

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Texte intégral

1“Elsewhere” is everywhere to be found in Ishiguro's fiction, but this paper will try to contend that, in his latest work, there is a progression as he crosses a frontier in terms of referential reality. Ishiguro's work is also well known for the tension between memory and identity it systematically explores on different modes but with the constant backdrop of individuality versus collectivity. Probing into the arcane of the self and self-representation tends to connect more and more with collective issues which relate to a society, and with his last novel, to humanity. Thus, we will first focus on Ishiguro's novels from A Pale View of Hills to When We Were Orphans to show how reflection, refraction or mirror-effects lead to a reflexion on the specificity of the reader's position in Ishiguro's narratives. This diachronic approach is necessary to understand Never Let Me Go, and the creation of a deliberately non-referential elsewhere which has never been so close to our here and now.

From the East to the West: Probing into Ishiguro's Geography

  • 1 Thus The Remains, in which a geographical elsewhere is not represented, may paradoxically be the no (...)

2To begin with a geographical remark, we could say that Ishiguro moves from the East to the West in terms of fictional location. Obviously, the East, and more specifically his native land Japan, is much more present in the author's first two novels, A Pale View of Hills (1982) and An Artist of the Floating World (1986), than in his later fiction. However, we will have to keep in mind that after The Remains of the Day (1989) and The Unconsoled (1995), the Eastern perspective is reintroduced in his fiction with When We Were Orphans (2000) but with a slightly different inflexion due to the more collective dimension of myth which dates back to The Remains.1

3Otherness is not inextricably linked with elsewhere and the sense of place informs a reflexion on the sense of self which transcends geographical boundaries. Thus in his first two novels, the Japan of post World War II is a historical backdrop which plays an important role, but what is actually at stake in these two novels is rather the process of delving i nto the past, the confrontation between two distinct periods in a protagonist's life and the way the self comes to terms with the past. In both cases, the first-person narrator's identity, his deep, inner, secret self are revealed to the reader through a more or less straightforward process of recollection.

  • 2 In Pale, back in the past also corresponds with another place as the novel takes us back to the 50’ (...)
  • 3 As Fumio Yoshioka explains in “Beyond the Division of East and West”, an article the title of which (...)

4The first central feature which emerges in Ishiguro's work would then be a predominance of the temporal dimension over the spatial one. The fabric of the self seems to be woven through a constant movement to and fro, now back in the past, now in the diegetic present.2 We could say that in both works the author seems to be less concerned with collective identity—be it Englishness or “Japaneseness”—than with the impossible perception of the self for the homodiegetic narrator. The aporia of self-representation is indicated through the motif of vision: for instance, the technique of refraction between the female characters of Pale reveals the schizophrenic dimension of the first-person narrator Etsuko.3 In Artist, the main character Ono is a painter who underlines the inevitable gap between art and life: “[. . .] I cannot recall any colleague who could paint a self-portrait with absolute honesty; however accurately one may fill in the surface details of one's mirror reflection, the personality represented rarely comes near the truth as others would see it (Ishiguro 1987, 67)”. What is common to his two “Japanese” novels though, is the mode of communication established between the implied author and the reader: in scopic terms, we could say that the implied author seems to hold a mirror up to the reader who is thus able to distinguish features which the protagonists do not seem to be aware of.

  • 4 For a thorough analysis of When We Were Orphans and the type of mythical figure central in these tw (...)

5If both his first novels can be seen as having the East in common, the next two we would like to focus briefly on share a reflexion on Englishness which is elaborated through a socio-cultural angle, that of myth. The Remains and When We Were Orphans both feature a mythic figure as narrator, the English butler on the one hand and the English detective on the other hand, except that in the case of the butler the fictive character corresponds to a real figure while the detective is a literary myth. We will not develop this important difference here4 but we can state that these novels mark a decisive shift towards a collective perspective. Stevens and Banks are both linked to a colonialist viewpoint; through them the imperial discourse of domination of the other is revealed. Here again, differences between the two novels could be pointed out as Stevens reproduces an ostracism of which he is also a victim while Banks hears eugenic approaches to the East but seems to be impervious to their ideological content.

6With these two novels, Ishiguro's commitment may start to transpire. After writing The Remains, he thus declared: “[. . .] it seems to me a nation's myth is the way a country dreams. It is part of the country's fabulized memory, and it seems to me to be a very valid task for the artist to try and figure out what that myth is and if they should actually rework or undermine that myth (Vorda 15)”. With the introduction of a reflection on myth, the author veers off towards a more collective approach to the way we elaborate our sense of reality. The political dimension inherent to the “reworking” or “undermining” of the “country's fabulized memory” also begins to impose itself as a landmark of Ishiguro's novels from The Remains onward.

  • 5 See also Camille Fort’s “ ‘Playing in the dead of night’: voice and vision in Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pa (...)

7The Unconsoled is certainly the novel which has been the most criticised and most badly reviewed in the author's literary career (Wong 66-80). From our point of view, it may in fact be his most interesting work, and it certainly foreshadows Never Let me Go, as the issue of reflexivity is more pregnant than in his previous novels. Ryder, the main protagonist, declares: “I thought of trying just once more to declare my identity, but the thought of the figure I had glimpsed in the mirror made me decide against doing so (Ishiguro 1996, 241)”. This quotation clearly points at the impossibility to connect with one's own reflection. The image in the mirror, like Ono's self-portrait, is not mimetic. If refraction is impossible on a diegetic level5, what about the encounter between the reader's level of reality and that of diegesis?

The Novel as a Looking-Glass

8Ishiguro's novels share a second well-known feature, that of a first-person narrator characterized by his/her unreliability. Etsuko, Ono, Stevens, Ryder, Banks and Kathy all conjure up events of the past, and as the process of reminiscence unfolds, an image of what the protagonists have been in the past gradually acquires distinctness. This specific technique rests on the implicit assumption that personality and selfhood are constructs which are inscribed in a temporal continuity, however, the characters themselves are not aware of this gradual painting of a self-portrait achieved for the benefit of the reader only. To put it differently, we could say that the story told by the unreliable narrators does not provide a coherent tale; the text's signified is to be found in the narrative process itself and it is revealed through discourse and telling.

9As a consequence, readers play an active part in Ishiguro's novels. First of all, first-person narrators inevitably trigger identification. Besides, the hermeneutic quest into the past implies a code of reading which Barthes qualifies as not reader-oriented. In that respect, the metafictional game with the detective genre in When We Were Orphans crowns what was announced by the reader's position and the part he had to play in Ishiguro's previous novels: he has to fill in the gaps in the narrative process and these very gaps are the purveyors of meaning.

10We have pointed out that with The Remains and When We Were Orphans, the collective dimension becomes predominant. Rigid class and race divisions gradually shape a picture of pre and post World War II English society which points at a sense of Englishness resting on the exclusion of otherness and difference. Stevens' angle of approach to the world is so limited and constrained that it forces the reader to see beyond such an acute angle. Banks' monomania with his personal case, the geographical circularity of the novel, and the recurrent emphasis on vision engage the reader into a reflexive process on the role played by the mythical figure of the detective on a collective level. In each case, the book thus becomes a looking-glass revealing the ideological pillars on which collective vision rests.

  • 6 The author provides us with this comment on The Unconsoled: “Instead of using the more conventional (...)

11With The Unconsoled, we could say that Ishiguro goes a step further. Space and time dissolve, referential reality disappears as we follow the main character Ryder in a world which can be seen as an oneiric landscape in which the real and the unreal become undistinguishable. The subject as cognitive centre, even if unreliable, seems to vanish and we never really know as readers whether what we read belongs to the past, the present or the future.6 Cynthia F. Wong also underlines the character's ontological deficiency:

  • 7 In L’Art de la fugue, Claire Pegon defines the narrative voice in Ishiguro’s novels as “[. . .] une (...)
  • 8 See Docherty’s “Postmodern Characterization: Ethics of Alterity”.

“For Ryder, the world escapes explanation and there is no practical point in grasping an evasive reality (Wong 68)”.In that sense, The Unconsoled can be analysed as the climax of Ishiguro's reflexion on the impossibility to create a sense of self,7 a central feature of postmodernity in writing.8 Besides, the novel announces Never Let Me Go in so far as the disappearance of an essential selfhood leads to the evanescence of an essential reality.

  • 9 See Max Duperray’s preface to La Folie et la méthode.

12The metafictional game at work in Ishiguro's novels rests on an intrumentalisation of genres which triggers both a process of recognition and of distance for the reader. Ryder is a nomad, a wanderer in a fictive reality which constantly evades meaning and connections with a referential reality. Signs abound but they cannot be reorganized in a coherent whole. In that sense, we could analyse The Unconsoled as a fantastic narrative in so far as it constantly plays on what Max Duperray calls an “effect of derealisation”.9 The reader is thus faced with a work in which a sense of the real—be it fictive—constantly evades him. The book does become a looking-glass in which reflexions and images constantly shift, transforming themselves into something else which is never fully graspable.

Never Let Me Go or the Impossible Desire to connect

  • 10 See the first pages of Dominique Vinet, “Fugal Tempo in The Unconsoled”.

13Never Let Me Go can be envisaged as the apex of Ishiguro's reflexion on the intricate network of ideological and epistemological links between elsewhere and otherness. No dichotomy East/West appears in that last novel which takes place in England—like The Remains—but at a later period of the 20th century. At first sight, Never Let Me Go thus seems more anchored in a historical and referential reality than The Unconsoled. The first-person narrator, Kathy, betrays nothing which would associate her with alterity or elsewhere: the incipit announces clearly that the novel takes place in the 90s in England, more specifically at Hailsham. This school Kathy went to, and of which she describes the functioning, seems at first as typically British as could be. A seminal narratorial technique of Never recalls The Remains, the fact that Kathy directly addresses the reader like Stevens before her, but in a way which implies that the said reader has experienced a youth similar to that of the protagonist. She clearly and recurrently implies that going to such a school as Hailsham is everybody's lot: “I don't know how it was where you were, but at Hailsham we had to have some form of medical almost every week” (Ishiguro 2005, 12). All these details contribute to the forging of a fictive reality akin to the referential one. We are addressed by a narrator who considers the reader as a fellow creature who shares the same world as the one she lives in. Thus whereas in The Unconsoled, we were immediatly trapped in a maze in which landmarks had evaporated,10 we enter the diegetic world of Never with a sense of recognition. “Carer” and “donor” are words which appear on the first page and which might puzzle readers at first but we tend to associate them with a profession which would involve healthcare.

  • 11 I won’t be a carer any more come the end of the year, and [. . .] I have to admit I’ll welcome the (...)
  • 12 It is true that we see reappearing modalisation and circumlocutions pointing at the unreliability o (...)

14A reader used to Ishiguro's work will then rapidly feel on familiar ground as Kathy engages in a process of reminiscence, explaining that to understand herself, she has to embark on a reappraisal of her past, “to order all these old memories” being the phrase she uses.11 So once again, the narrator enquires into his own , and more particularly his youth, except that in this novel, Kathy becomes a real and a reliable detective. Contrary to the syndrome of unreliability which has been recurrently analysed as a symptom typical of Ishiguro's narrators, even when they actually were detectives, Kathy is a narrator who does not provide us with any type of hint or clue which would point at a biased, subjective, rearranged vision of the past.12

  • 13 On monstrosity and the narrative process, see my article on the novel published in Gothic NEWS.

15In spite of this straightforward quest for a knowledge which aims at establishing her identity, in the story of her youth at Hailsham along with her two schoolmates Tommy and Ruth, we come to grasp a number of gaps of awareness which seem to point at a limited angle of approach to the world granted to the so-called “students”. Kathy thus tells us the story of the gradual discovery of a difference which has a very specific impact on readers because of the position they are placed in and which seems to us at the core of the unease created by this novel: Kathy's difference boils down to the discovery of her monstrosity.13 We mentioned before the acuteness of the angle of approach to the world of such a narrator as Stevens. Similarly to the butler, Kathy has a very restricted vision of the world around her at first, but she gradually understands that she has a specific function in this world. This process of coming to awareness begins with the understanding that Hailsham students are completely different from what she calls “the normal people outside” (Ishiguro 2005, 63), then, various episodes are evoked by the narrator as instances of moments when they were more or less told about their function. Finally, she relates a seminal scene with one of the guardians, Miss Lucy, who decides to tell them exactly why they are brought up at Hailsham:

If no one else will talk to you”, she continued, “then I will. The problem, as I see it, is that you've been told and not told. You've been told, but none of you really understand, and I dare say, some people are quite happy to leave it that way. [. . .] None of you will go to America, none of you will be film stars. And none of you will be working in supermarkets as I heard some of you planning the other day. Your lives are set out for you. You'll become adults, then before you're old, before you're even middle-aged, you'll start to donate your vital organs. That's what each of you was created to do. [. . .] You were brought into this world for a purpose, and your futures, all of them, have been decided”. (Ishiguro 2005, 73)

16Doubts cannot be entertained by the readers anymore; the narrator is indeed a clone created and reared to provide spare parts for “normal” human beings and prolong the latter's lives.

17Kathy is therefore a clone, an unnatural creation and the fictive world which surrounds her ceases to be a potential referential duplicate of our own. However, the readers' involvement in the novel is not that clear-cut. Very early in her narrative, the narrator mentions the eyes of other people as a mirror reflecting her own monstrosity. The following quotation illustrates how Kathy also forces the reader to share her position.

“Thinking back now, I can see we were just at that age when we knew a few things about ourselves [. . .] but hadn't yet understood what any of it meant. I'm sure somewhere in your childhood, you too had an experience like ours that day [. . .] Because it does not really matter how well your guardians try to prepare you: all the talks, videos, discussions, warnings, none of that can really bring it home. [. . .] All the same, some of it must go in somewhere [. . .]. Maybe from as early as when you're five or six [. . .] you're waiting, [. . .], waiting for the moment when you realise that you really are different to them; that there are people out there [. . .] who don't hate you or wish you any harm, but who nevertheless shudder at the very thought of you—of how you were brought into this world and why—and who dread the idea of your hand brushing against theirs. The first time you glimpse yourself through the eyes of a person like that, it's a cold moment. It's like walking past a mirror you've walked past every day of your life, and suddenly it shows you something else, something troubling and strange”.
(Ishiguro 2005, 33)

18This passage appears as fundamental for it marks a decisive change with the previous novels in which we have evoked the authorial technique of holding up a mirror behind the character's back. In Never, Kathy's first inklings at her otherness results from the refraction of herself in other's eyes.

19Images, reflexions play a central part in this novel. All along their careers, the clones are kept apart from society. Be it at Hailsham, at The Cottages, or when they start “working”, they never mix with natural human beings. Kathy thus also describes the way they live in a parallel world, with almost no point of contact with the society which instrumentalises them. What is very striking then in this novel, is that the clones nevertheless manage to forge a sense of reality for themselves. This gof reality is elaborated thanks to the network of artificial images our society produces. The clones thus model their behaviour on what they see in series on TV, on ads in the papers or posters in the streets. The referential reality they try to get a sense of and adapt to is in fact an illusion, a simulacrum of reality. We could describe the clones' position as being behind the looking glass, they appear, to evoke Walter Benjamin’s analysis of works of art in contemporary modern societies, as our serialised doubles, mimicking our movements but they are forever imprisoned on the other side.

20The reader's position in that novel is consequently very peculiar. Reading a first person narrative with a hermeneutic dimension, he has no choice but to identify with Kathy and yet he gradually discovers that he is trapped on a different side of the mirror from hers. He is one of « them », maybe not of those who launched the clone program but at least of the silent majority which ignored the ethical consequences of that enterprise. At the end of the novel, the clones get the following explanation:

After the war, in the early fifties, when the great breakthroughs in science followed one after the other so rapidly, there wasn't time to take stock, to ask the sensible questions. Suddenly there were [. . .] all these ways to cure so many previously incurable conditions. [. . .] And for a long time, people preferred to believe these organs appeared from nowhere, or at most that they grew in a kind of vacuum. [. . .] By the time people [. . .] came to consider just how you were reared, whether you should have been brought into existence at all, well by then it was too late. There was no way to reverse the process. [. . .] However uncomfortable people were about your existence, their overwhelming concern was that their own children, their spouses, their parents, their friends, did not die from cancer, motor neurone disease, heart disease. So for a long time you were kept in the shadows and people did their best not to think about you. And if they did they tried to convince themselves you weren't really like us. That you were less than human, so it didn't really matter. (Ishiguro 2005, 240)

  • 14 14. The passage of the novel in which Kathy ponders on the contrast between two images which are re (...)

21Thus in this novel, Ishiguro has recourse to a “derealisation” process which strikes the reader to the full. What we consider as real is reduced to an image for the clones who forever live in a parallel reality.14 Two completely incompatible realities coexist through a frame but remain hermetically distinct. The reader is trapped in between these two realities, that of his world, and the simulacrum of reality the clones live in, the threshold between the two being the novel itself.

22We thus contend that instead of reworking what Ishiguro called “the country's fabulized memory”, this novel aims at showing the reader the country's fabulized future. Still, Ishiguro achieves this without creating a Netherland; the diegetic world is recognized by readers as a duplicate of their own, with, however, a few details which introduce a jarring note in a supposedly harmonious whole. On the rare occasions when Kathy and her friends go into the outside world, a sense of uniformity prevails. Coloured people for example seem to have almost totally disappeared, a social reality made of diversity, inequality, protest or action and reaction seems to have been completely taken out of the picture.

  • 15 See Wai-chew Sim 261.

23In this sterile and sanitized world, the clones also seem strangely devoid of reaction. Are we thus, as readers, also ill at ease because in addition to our position of in-betweenness, we are forced to enter a world in which a productivist approach to the human body is taken for granted? Wai-chew Sim argues that the very passivity of the characters in general “seeks to encourage movement beyond”.15 His analysis of the novel is worth quoting at length:

It [Never] shows that the corollary to such incipient depersonalisation is the human body entering the exchange circuit as just another commodity. It registers the dehumanising instrumentalism of modern techno-civilisation, of the loss of subjectivity that ensues in a totally administered society. It figures the accelerated reification at the heart of capitalist commodity culture and suggests that in its totality this culture is in some sense anti-life. Just as importantly, it envisions an alternative totality as a starting point for change, a non-alienated totality governed by use value and concrete labour instead of the cash nexus. (Wai-chew Sim 261)

24The novel could then also be envisaged as denouncing a society drifting towards an impossibility to be anchored in the real anymore. If the clones elaborate their sense of reality thanks to images, it also means that what emanates from our societies is mainly an artificial and illusive reality. We do not try to apprehend reality directly anymore but through images, what Baudrillard calls a simulacrum of reality.

25The novel thus also raises the question of a possible definition of the human. What becomes of human nature when the human body enters a free market economy? However, the central issue at stake in this work is also art and creativity. We have already noted that several of Ishiguro's narrators were artists and thus that they raised the issue of creativity and the role of art in modern societies.

26In the autarkic and closed world of Hailsham, we discover a micro-society which has its own internal rules. Trade at Hailsham thus follows an alternative model and the latter rests on tokens used as currency, the said tokens being acquired in exchange for the works of art the students produce. Creativity is thus valued at Hailsham, yet the issue of creativity is characterized by a double bind of exchange, the economic one we have just described and the more mysterious issue of the Gallery. The best works of art they produce are presented to Madame in the Billiard Room for her to select. Although never evoked directly, the students all assume that their production goes to a Gallery of which Madame is responsible. The reason for such a place to exist is also at the core of Kathy's quest as we come to understand that the students believe that their artistic production may grant them in the end what they call a “deferral”, that is a respite before the last donations and death. They learn in the last chapters of the novel that such is not the case. They also come to grasp the reason for such a collection of their art. The point was (the past tense is here due to the fact that Hailsham is closed by the end of narration) to try and prove their humanity following the assumption that art reveals the soul and that if they were creative they necessarily had souls:

We took away your art because we thought it would reveal your souls. Or to put it more finely, we did it to prove you had souls at all. [. . .] we challenged the entire way the donations programme was being run. Most importantly, we demonstrated to the world that if students were reared in humane, cultivated environments, it was possible for them to grow to be as sensitive and intelligent as any ordinary human being. Before that, all clones—or students, as we preferred to call you—existed only to supply medical science [. . .] that's largely all you were to most people. Shadowy objects in test tubes. (Ishiguro 2005, 238-239)

27With his last novel, Ishiguro has recourse to an elsewhere which reveals that the issue of otherness is not only part and parcel of an ideological discourse aiming at justifying a geopolitical dominance. In a fictive society (but is it that fictitious?) in which the human body has indeed become an tradable commodity, otherness and deviance might well be on our side of the mirror. As Andrew Hock-soon puts it: “[. . .] the monster in much contemporary literature is located [. . .] in an 'elsewhere' that is intimately with(in) us. The monster ruptures the reality of the self from within the subject [. . .] (Hock-soon 1-2)”.After reading Never Let Me Go, we may indeed wonder about the real location of monstrosity as what Ishiguro paints in this work is the profound and genuine desire of the clones to connect with a reality and a humanity which is responsible for their creation but also for their being ostracized and destroyed. Like Frankenstein's monster, they are creatures who will never become creators, their life is an anti-life, their elsewhere is a “possible theory” of what our world may drift toward and their humanity emerges as much more profound and authentic than our post-humanity.

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Bibliographie

Docherty, Thomas, “Postmodern Characterization: Ethics of Alterity”, ed. Edmund J. Smyth, Postmodernism and Contemporary Fiction, London: Batsford, 1991.

Duperray, Max, La Folie et la méthode, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2001.

Fort, Camille, “‘Playing in the dead of night’: voice and vision in Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills”, Etudes britanniques contemporaines 27 (décembre 2004): 39–53.

Hock-Soon Ng, Andrew, Dimensions of Monstrosity in Contemporary Narratives, Palgrave: Macmillan, 2004.

Ishiguro, Kazuo, A Pale View of Hills, London: Faber & Faber, 1982.

Ishiguro, Kazuo, An Artist of the Floating World (1986), London: Faber and Faber, 1987.

Ishiguro, Kazuo, The Remains of the Day, London: Faber & Faber, 1989.

Ishiguro, Kazuo, The Unconsoled, (1995), London: Faber & Faber, 1996.

Ishiguro, Kazuo, When We Were Orphans, London: Faber & Faber, 2000.

Ishiguro, Kazuo, Never Let Me Go, London: Faber and Faber, 2005.

Krider, Dylan Otto, “Rooted in a Small Place: An Interview with Kazuo Ishiguro”, The Kenyon Review 20 (1998): 145–155.

Machinal, Hélène, “The Strange Case of Christopher Banks in Kazuo Ishiguro’s When We Were Orphans”, Etudes britanniques contemporaines 27 (décembre 2004): 55–66.

Machinal, Hélène, “Narrating Monstrosity : Reality versus Virtuality in Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go”, Gothic NEWS, Max Duperray, ed., Paris, Houdiard, 2009, 332–344.

Pegon, Claire, L'Art de la fugue chez Kazuo Ishiguro, Toulouse : PU du Mirail, 2004.

Vinet, Dominique, “Fugal Tempo in The Unconsoled”, Etudes britanniques contemporaines 27 (décembre 2004) : 127–131.

Vorda, Allan, “Stuck on the Margins: an Interview with Kazuo Ishiguro”, Face to Face: Interviews with Contemporary Novelists, Rice: Rice UP, 1993.

Wai-Chew, Sim, Globalization and Dislocation in the Novels of Kazuo Ishiguro, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2006.

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Yoshioka, Fumio, “Beyond the Division of East and West”, Studies in English Literature 64 (1988): 71–86.

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Note de fin

1 Thus The Remains, in which a geographical elsewhere is not represented, may paradoxically be the novel in which otherness first emerges as a central preoccupation of the author.

2 In Pale, back in the past also corresponds with another place as the novel takes us back to the 50’s in Japan through the narratorial prism of the 80’s in England. In Artist, the double temporality persists but Japan remains as the unique location of narration.

3 As Fumio Yoshioka explains in “Beyond the Division of East and West”, an article the title of which shows how Ishiguro transcends dichotomies, “The main characters, mostly women, as the story develops, start to overlap each other, curiously, while retaining their personal distinctness and become undistinguishable like mirror-images toward the end: Sachiko and Mariko gradually take the shape of a future image or altered ego, of the heroine and Keiko respectively” (Yoshioka 75).

4 For a thorough analysis of When We Were Orphans and the type of mythical figure central in these two novels see my article “The Strange Case of Christopher Banks in Ishiguro’s When We Were Orphans”.

5 See also Camille Fort’s “ ‘Playing in the dead of night’: voice and vision in Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills”.

6 The author provides us with this comment on The Unconsoled: “Instead of using the more conventional methods like flashbacks, where you just learn about somebody’s life from this point to that point, here, I thought, you could do it in a very different way, where someone apparently stumbles into this landscape in which everything is an expression of his past and his fears for the future” (Krider 152).

7 In L’Art de la fugue, Claire Pegon defines the narrative voice in Ishiguro’s novels as “[. . .] une voix narrative qui ne construit peut-être rien d’autre qu’un sujet en fugue” (Pégon 30).

8 See Docherty’s “Postmodern Characterization: Ethics of Alterity”.

9 See Max Duperray’s preface to La Folie et la méthode.

10 See the first pages of Dominique Vinet, “Fugal Tempo in The Unconsoled”.

11 I won’t be a carer any more come the end of the year, and [. . .] I have to admit I’ll welcome the chance to rest—to stop and think and remember. [. . .] I’ve been getting this urge to order all these old memories. [. . .] I realise now just how much of what occurred later came out of our time at Hailsham” (Ishiguro 2005, 34).

12 It is true that we see reappearing modalisation and circumlocutions pointing at the unreliability of memory, yet Kathy knows from the outset that she is indeed different from “the normal people outside”, what she is trying to do is first to locate the “original point” of understanding of her different nature and second to decipher the reason why they were created and reared the way they were at Hailsham. Kathy is thus the first of Ishiguro’s narrators who consciously and willingly embarks on a quest to establish her identity.

13 On monstrosity and the narrative process, see my article on the novel published in Gothic NEWS.

14 14. The passage of the novel in which Kathy ponders on the contrast between two images which are reflections of the same place, that is Kingsfield recovery centre before it was converted and after, is telltale in that respect. See Ishiguro 2005, 199–200.

15 See Wai-chew Sim 261.

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Hélène Machinal et CEIMA (HCTI EA 4249), « From Behind the Looking-Glass: Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let me Go and Beyond », Études britanniques contemporaines, 37 | 2009, 115-126.

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Hélène Machinal et CEIMA (HCTI EA 4249), « From Behind the Looking-Glass: Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let me Go and Beyond », Études britanniques contemporaines [En ligne], 37 | 2009, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2017, consulté le 18 novembre 2017. URL : http://ebc.revues.org/3688 ; DOI : 10.4000/ebc.3688

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Auteurs

Hélène Machinal

Université de Bretagne Occidentale.
Hélène Machinal est Maître de conférence habilitée à diriger des recherches à l’Université de Bretagne Occidentale et membre du CEIMA/HCTI (EA 4249). Elle est spécialiste du fantastique, du roman policier et de la fiction spéculative au xixe siècle. Elle est l’auteur d’un ouvrage sur Arthur Conan Doyle (paru aux PU de Rennes) et, outre des articles consacrés à la fiction de la seconde moitié du xixe siècle, elle a par ailleurs publié plusieurs articles sur la littérature britannique contemporaine.

Articles du même auteur

CEIMA (HCTI EA 4249)

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Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
Études britanniques contemporaines est mise à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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