Cynthia F. Wong
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Eloquence and empathy in A Pale View of Hills and An Artist of the Floating World
in Kazuo Ishiguro
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Cynthia F. Wong’s ‘Eloquence and empathy in A Pale View of Hills and An Artist of the Floating World’ builds on Horton’s analysis of Ishiguro’s first novel, offering a comparative reading of his first, and most typical, narrators. Indeed, Ishiguro’s early novels (his ‘Japanese’ works) share many geographical, thematic and stylistic similarities, perhaps foremost an exploitation of narrators rendered unreliable both because they suffer with imperfect memory and because they have, or appear to have, regrettable pasts. In her chapter Wong pays particular and careful attention to Etsuko and Ono, two characters who, as she argues counter to Ishiguro, are ‘more distinct and contrasting characters [than] claimed by their author’. In the first part of her chapter, ‘The duplicity of eloquence’, Wong traces the often-conflicted critical responses to her chosen subjects, indicating an ongoing ambiguity about whether their accounts of their occluded pasts are wilfully duplicitous or simply inaccurate, partial. In ‘Family resemblances and the domestic drama’, Wong focuses on Ono’s complex relationship with family, understood both literally and figuratively, while also highlighting Ishiguro’s recurring interest in family resemblance, and the manner in which this resemblance manifests as an organising principle in his body of work. Finally, in ‘Empathy unrealised’ Wong continues her exploration of familial relationships, this time thinking through the various characteristic failures of empathy and the fraught interpersonal relations negotiated in these two early novels.

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