The Remains of the Day, by K. Ishiguro

I don’t remember having ever read a book where language itself was the revelator of the character, of the real story. Although the book is written in the first person, so one would expect to see the world through the narrating character’s eyes, the reader in fact cannot miss the alternative reality, the one that the story-teller is NOT telling. The language struck me from the first lines. A first-person story sounds honest, direct, opening doors. This voice, instead, is acting out the story of his life as he wills it to haveĀ been. So much self-deception that is so brilliantly transparent to the reader!

The perfectly dignified butler indulges himself not only in reminiscing, but also in discussing sociological, ontological or otherwise heavy-weight questions, like what is dignity, what is greatness, what distinguishes one generation of butlers from the one before. One would almost wonder at the broad intellectual horizons of this distinguished butler. He even finds exquisite means to turn the trivial profession he has been doing into a lofty mission in the service of mankind.

A language that reflects the true colours of this anti-hero: artificial, pretentious, repressing authenticity for fear of the ridiculous, for fear of losing the “dignity”. We have no other, objective, clues to the drama of his life. His language does it.


The Remains of the Day