the remains of the day

Every time I feel like I’m about to have an existential crisis, I pick up Ishiguro.

Mr. Ishiguro said in a telephone interview from his home outside London that he tended to focus on elderly characters out of his own concern about how members of his generation would account for themselves in the years to come.

”I’m still a relatively young writer,” said Mr. Ishiguro, who was born in 1954, ”and I tend to write out of a projected fear of what would happen. To combat complacency, I suppose I’m always trying to remind myself in my writing that while we may be very pleased with ourselves, we may look back with a different perspective, and see we may have acted out of cowardice and failure of vision.

”What I’m interested in is not the actual fact that my characters have done things they later regret,” Mr. Ishiguro said. ”I’m interested in how they come to terms with it. On the one hand there is a need for honesty, on the other hand a need to deceive themselves – to preserve a sense of dignity, some sort of self-respect. What I want to suggest is that some sort of dignity and self-respect does come from that sort of honesty.”

INTERVIEWER: In that book, and in so many of your novels, the main character seems tragically to miss his or her chance at love by seconds.

ISHIGURO: I don’t know if they miss it by seconds. In a way they’ve missed it by miles. They might look back and think, There was this moment when it could have all been different. It’s tempting for them to think, Oh, it was just a little twist of fate. But in fact, there are colossal things that make them miss not just love but something essential in life.

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