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Book Report: The Remains of the Day

So. It has often been remarked that one of the signs of a really good book is that every time you read it, it’s a different (but still good) experience. I shouldn’t have put that bit in parenthesis, should I? In fact, that’s the whole point. I’ll begin again.

It has often been remarked that one of the signs of a really good book is that every time you read it, the experience, while of course different each time, is good. No, that doesn’t sound right, either.

Look, you can’t step in the same river twice, right? It’s not the same foot, it’s not the same water. We all know that. When you reread a book, though, it’s not the same you, but the words are the same. Often, a book that you liked once, you find on rereading has very little left to interest you. Another book seems to be an entirely different work, deeper or sadder or more topical or more comfortable. Sometimes a book will lure you back to your old self, a copy of it, more or less. Well, less, usually. One kind of good book is a book that lures you forward, to another new self.

I first read The Remains of the Day in college. Your Humble Blogger is, as you know, a pathetic old Anglophile, and I suspect I enjoyed the book primarily on an Upstairs-Downstairs level, learning about the workings of a Stately Home, etc, and enjoying the little jokes about English reticence and so on. I read it again, later, and found the depiction of pro-Nazi sentiment deeply disturbing and affecting. I was taken by it on a moral level, you understand, how Stevens comes to term with the undeniable fact that by his choices he wound up helping the Nazis.

This time through (going back to it after adoring Never Let Me Go), I was taken by the politics of it. By the subtle damnation of English pre-War society, and the way that the aristocracy really was on the fascist side of the fascist-communist split. It’s because I just finished reading about Jessica Mitford, of course; her father was one of the more prominent of the Nazi sympathizers who Kazuo Ishiguro incarnates as Lord Darlington. And this time through, he portrayal does not seem so sympathetic, so poignant. No, this time through, he seemed pretty harsh, and rightly so.

Of course, this time through, I have our own fascists to worry about.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,