Bruce Robbins
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Klara in the junkyard
On loneliness in The Unconsoled
in Kazuo Ishiguro
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In his moving chapter ‘Klara in the junkyard: on loneliness in The Unconsoled’, Bruce Robbins unites Ishiguro’s most recent and most narratologically complex work through mutual interest in feelings of loneliness. Beginning with a short exemplary analysis of the final scenes of Ishiguro’s Artificial Intelligence fiction, Robbins opens his chapter by pondering whether Klara herself is immune to the loneliness which she is ironically designed to remedy, and therefore in some sense immune from the fate of many of Ishiguro’s most iconic characters, perhaps foremost The Unconsoled’s Mr Ryder. As he argues, Ishiguro’s characters tend to find themselves personally isolated, most often because of their prioritising of their professional lives, before seeking some final yet ultimately unavailable consolation at novels’ end. Avoiding the critical tendency to simply condemn these characters, to hold them accountable for their own various neglects (of family, of morality, of society) and to see in their aloneness some poetic justice, Robbins instead argues that ‘Ishiguro lays out elements of an ethical case in favour of the professional, impersonal, cosmopolitan commitments that are set against intimacy and that lead both figures into their final solitude’. Indeed, Robbins asks provocatively, do Ishiguro’s fictions – in which familial, romantic and friendly relations often involve complex forms of ridicule and exclusion – promote the idea ‘that belonging as such is inextricable from cruelty’? Robbins teases out the economies of belonging and loneliness which foster the interpersonal tensions so typical of Ishiguro’s fictions, and figured most powerfully in The Unconsoled.

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