Rebecca Karni
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Ishiguro’s tempered presentational realism and practice
in Kazuo Ishiguro
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Continuing the discussion of Ishiguro’s formal sensibilities but focusing exclusively on An Artist of the Floating World, Rebecca Karni interrogates what she describes as ‘Ishiguro's tempered presentational realism and practice’. Karni proposes that those aspects of Ishiguro’s writing which appear to offer points of entry into a complex and ambiguous body of work – ‘the deceptive surface transparency of the author's prose, in addition to his Japanese background’ – often result in readings which are inherently reductive (essentialist or Orientalist). Karni explores Ishiguro’s tactics of evasion, which, she argues, result in texts which sustain ‘meaning in ways that go beyond signification’. Taking the idea of ‘presentation’ from Hans-Georg Gadamer – refining this with the usage of the same term in Japanese cinema studies – Karni thinks through the ways in which Ishiguro both borrows from the expectations of traditional realist texts and undercuts these through his characteristic narrative and narratological techniques. Ishiguro’s first two novels, Karni suggests, are peculiarly apposite examples of his presentational realism. Her chapter interrogates the ways in which the novels provoke the reader’s hermeneutic impulse, the desire to uncover, to move ‘from signifier to the supposedly “hidden” signified’, while simultaneously playing on the futility of such interpretative practices. In this way, Karni argues, Ishiguro’s literary devices work to provoke more profound and wide-ranging questions about fiction, the novel as form, and the practice of reading more broadly.

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