Yugin Teo
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Nocturnes, hope and ‘that croony nostalgia music’
in Kazuo Ishiguro
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In his chapter on Nocturnes, Ishiguro’s only collection of short fiction, Yugin Teo delicately unthreads the stories’ engagement with the feeling of nostalgia which plays such a prominent role in Ishiguro’s fictions. Teo thinks through this ‘longing for a better world’ as it manifests in three ways: home and the desire to return to innocence; the utopian spaces facilitated by shared reminiscence; and the form of the short story itself as a medium through which to convey the fleeting nature of nostalgic hope. Developing from insights in his own important monograph Kazuo Ishiguro and Memory (2014) Teo thinks through the complex relationships and tensions which nostalgia presupposes between longings for the past and hopes for the future; as he remarks, the ‘collection of stories is ultimately about dreams and dreamers, and the difficulties of holding on to one’s dreams and initial optimism for the future’. Questions also arise which have implications for Ishiguro’s works more broadly, to do with regret, whether or not characters experience epiphanies (the traditional heart of the short story) from which they learn, somehow, to negotiate their pasts and alter their futures. However, as Teo points out, there remains a characteristic ambiguity in the stories, and one can never be sure whether nostalgia enables or hinders elusive happiness.

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