‘They built a whole lot like that in the fifties and sixties’ – Dominic Dean on Kazuo Ishiguro

Joining us this Wednesday 29 June to discuss Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun is Dr Dominic Dean of Sussex University. Dr Dean has written about Ishiguro extensively, and we’ve found this essay available as Open Access. It principally covers Never Let Me Go, The Remains of the Day and The Buried Giant, and explores the way that Ishiguro situates his characters and stories within ‘institutions that endure as ghosts long after their original functions have ceased’.

Positing these stories as chronicles of an alternative English history, Dr Dean weaves them into the actual historical landscape of post-war England.

‘The rise and fall of Hailsham, a failed progressive experiment whose facilities are casually framed by Kathy’s remark that ‘they built a whole lot like that in the fifties and sixties’, uncannily mirrors post-war Britain’s optimistic social institution-building, the progressive movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and the conservative reaction emerging into 1980s Thatcherism. These parallels are not, of course, a direct reflection of real history, but rather operate as an uncanny refraction of it, as has been widely recognised in critical analysis. Never Let Me Go functions as a spectral doppelgänger to the history of post-war British institutions from their apogee to their suppression and dissolution, until it eventually becomes a phantom future never to be realised, and a past understood too late.

‘For its alumni, however, Hailsham’s legacy is materially and psychologi cally essential. It gave them protected space and time for their own development, offered a broad curriculum including arts, sports, and social skills, and nurtured a sense of agency over their futures. The latter was, however, always compromised: its programme is caught between affirming its institutional role in educating students into (even limited) agency, and an acceptance of latent natural order, where any education serves merely to reveal an organic hierarchy of relative human status. A tendency to compulsive gazing from the ‘Guardians’ towards the students betrays, in its hectic surveillance, an underlying anxiety that the students’ embodiment of humanity can never quite be secure, partly for the ironic reason that the institution itself is generating their supposed demonstrations of human essence – their artworks – artificially rather than organically.’

Download and read the entire article here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0950236X.2021.1970011#.YUCOGzj_Q-k.twitter

We’ll be discussing Klara and the Sun with our guests Dr Dominic Dean from the University of Sussex and Dr Richard Rankin Russell from Baylor University, Texas on Wednesday 29 June 2022. The event is free and open to all via Zoom.

Book your place via Eventbrite at the link below: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cardiff-booktalk-klara-and-the-sun-registration-314430910317?aff=ebdsoporgprofile

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