"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

July 24, 2011

"A Pale View of Hills" by Kazuo Ishiguro (Book review)

Kazuo Ishiguro's haunting debut novel, A Pale View of Hills (1982), is narrated by a Japanese widow, Etsuko, living in England, looking back over her life in post-war Nagasaki in the light of the recent suicide of one of her daughters.

She thinks back to one hot summer in Nagasaki just after the war, with cicadas droning in the trees. Etsuko has befriended Sachiko and her little daughter Mariko, living nearby in a sort of shack and fallen down from better times. When rumors of infanticide spread in the neighborhood, the pregnant Etsuko feels very disturbed. There are surprising similarities between Mariko and Etsuko's deceased daughter and the story eventually takes on a macabre shade. Etsuko's and Sachiko's lives seem to flow together. Past and present become fused, too.

The reminiscences are just as confused as a hazy, hot summer day. Everything flows together and we all are guilty, seems to be the message of this sad story on the theme of loss.

The narrative is subtle  and suggestive as we would expect from a Japanese author. But Kazuo Ishiguro is not Japanese, at least not anymore. He was born in 1954 in Nagasaki but grew up in England (since 1960) and now is a British citizen. Ishiguro writes a beautiful English style, concise and pared-down. Since this first novel, he has built up a small, but very fine oeuvre.