Kazuo Ishiguro (Britain, 1954)
"A Pale View of Hills" (1982)
"An Artist of the Floating World" (1986) +
"The Remains of the Day" (1989) + is a melancholy comedy that offers a stunning portrait of a man who devoted his life to dignity but is left with nothing else that... dignity.
Soon, the journey turns out to be just a pretext to go over the past. Stevens is the son of a great butler, whom he eventually hired as his own help at Darlington Hall pretty much at the same time he hired Miss Kenton. Kenton's temper and Steven's pride were often at odds, particularly regarding the chores of his aging father. Stevens was cold and matter of factual with his father, the way his father had raised him to be. During an international peace conference organized by Lord Darlington, his father died, but Stevens carried on his duties like nothing had happened. While witnessing the vile behavior of the American delegate and the noble attitude of his employer, Stevens also tried to educate about sex the innocent, soon to be married, godson of Lord Darlington, as requested by his employer. And all of this while his father was dying.
As the journey progresses, we learn of Lord Darlington's disturbing ideology, respectful of German diplomacy, disdainful of Jews and democracy. The butler, of course, seconded whatever the master ordered.
Stevens also recalls his growing intimacy with Miss Kenton, that she perhaps wanted to bloom into something stronger, but Stevens' icy attitude kept at bay.
The journey is a minor diversion. The butler is not very interested in the world, and certainly not in the present world, his mind still living in the age before the war.
Eventually, miss Kenton got engaged and announced it to Stevens the night Lord Darlington had invited another batch of very distinguished guests to talk about peace. That same night the godson, Reggie, showed up unexpectedly. Miss Kenton was obviously hurt that Stevens could care less about her engagement, possibly because she hoped he, Stevens, would propose. Reggie had become a columnist strongly opposed to Lord Darlington's filo-German views and, tipped off, had come to the mansion to derail the meeting, which was supposed to be the crowning achievement of the Lord's diplomacy. Reggie tried to warn his godfather that he, Lord Darlington, was being used by Hitler, was, in fact, Hitler's main agent in Britain. Reggie also told Stevens all this, but Stevens was too excited about the guests and the historic meeting to care about Reggie's theories. Or about Miss Kenton's engagement.
Finally, Stevens meets Miss Kenton. While he thought her marriage had ended in disaster, he learns that she had an average life and she is doing quite well, content with her life and her daughter and has no intention of returning to Darlington Hall. From their conversation we also learn that Lord Darlington had been completely discredited during and after the war.
Stevens is left alone, both by history and by his acquaitances. He spent his life serving a failed lord, a failed cause, a failed house. Out of devotion to his profession, he never started a family. His life is truly lonely and pointless. But all he can think of is to improve so he can better serve his new master.
"The Unconsoled" (1995) +
"When we were Orphans" (2000)
"Never Let me Go" (2005) ++
"The Buried Giant" (2015)