Andrew Bennett
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Novel dysfunction in When We Were Orphans
in Kazuo Ishiguro
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Building on Karni’s thoughtful interrogation of the ways in which Ishiguro’s narrative techniques inspire questions about the novel as form, in his chapter, ‘Novel dysfunction in When We Were Orphans’, Andrew Bennett takes a similar approach, arguing that Ishiguro’s deployment of the detective genre both exploits and confounds expectations that the novel is a ‘meaning-producing artifact’. In his reading of Ishiguro’s possibly least reliable narrator (and possibly the only cognitively impaired), Bennett deconstructs the flawed logic of the fantastic narrative, suggesting that various causal uncertainties which appear to be simply locally inexplicable in fact indicate the ‘more fundamental failure of the novel to work in the way that its readers might reasonably expect’. Taking two recurring symbols, the idea of blindness and the prominence of severed body parts, Bennett playfully foregrounds the ‘narratological, hermeneutic, and intertextual’ failures of the novel, arguing ultimately that the novel’s paradox is that its success as a literary artefact derives from these structural and signifying failures. In this way, his chapter performs a critique of the novel form, the traditions of realism and the reader’s desire to understand what is, ultimately, meaningless.

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