Ishiguro and the abandoned child: the parody of international crisis and representation in When We Were Orphans

Dean, Dominic (2018) Ishiguro and the abandoned child: the parody of international crisis and representation in When We Were Orphans. Journal of Commonwealth Literature. ISSN 0021-9894

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Abstract

Returning to Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel When We Were Orphans (2000) from a current period of crisis in international responsibilities, the abandoned child at the novel’s centre gains renewed significance. Here, as in modern history, this child is peculiarly effective in activating such responsibilities, apparently transcending national borders. Reading Orphans through Ishiguro’s persistent engagements with international crises and his reception as a transnational author, this article ties two major strands in studies of Ishiguro — his complicated internationalism, and his critique of politics based on affect and identity. Orphans emerges here as a sustained parody of the failings of affect as a basis for both political representation and international action, prefiguring themes in Ishiguro’s later novels. Christopher Banks, the protagonist, is received as both the abandoned child and as that child’s western rescuer, which leads to his ludicrous attempt to resolve a global crisis. Ishiguro’s parody of the culture that generates this attempt suggests that the collapse of aesthetics and politics into one another, even in the compelling figure of the abandoned child,perpetuates the very crises it seeks to resolve. This not only requires rereading Orphans within Ishiguro’s oeuvre; it emphasizes his renewed significance for a contemporary period struggling to avoid repeating the political and humanitarian disasters of the twentieth century.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: aesthetics, ethics of representation, globalization, international crisis, Kazuo Ishiguro, the child in politics
Schools and Departments: Professional Services > Research & Enterprise
Research Centres and Groups: Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0001 Literary history and criticism
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0057 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR6050 1961-2000
Depositing User: Dominic Dean
Date Deposited: 31 Jul 2018 08:19
Last Modified: 04 Dec 2018 15:19
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/77266

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