Butler as Metaphor

Leithart | 10/13/2017 | Staff
Fubu_chik (Posted by) Level 3
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The responses to the Nobel selection of Kazuo Ishiguro for the 2017 literature prize drew mixed, underwhelmed responses. Someone wrote that he wasn’t awarded the prize for any recent books. The Paris Review, though, posted an old interview to celebrate.

As readers of Ishiguro’s novels would expect, the author comes off as gentle, self-deprecating, thoughtful. When the interviewer asks about the origins of his best-known novel, The Remains of the Day, the author answers:

Joke - Wife - Journalist - Interview - Novel

“It started with a joke that my wife made. There was a journalist coming to interview me for my first novel. And my wife said, Wouldn’t it be funny if this person came in to ask you these serious, solemn questions about your novel and you pretended that you were my butler? We thought this was a very amusing idea.”

He “became obsessed with the butler as a metaphor,” of two things: “Two things. One is a certain kind of emotional frostiness. The English butler has to be terribly reserved and not have any personal reaction to anything that happens around him. It seemed to be a good way of getting into not just Englishness but the universal part of us that is afraid of getting involved emotionally. The other is the butler as an emblem of someone who leaves...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Leithart
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