Recollecting Memories, Reconstructing Identities: Narrators as Storytellers in Kazuo Ishiguro’s When We Were Orphans and Never Let Me Go.

  • Silvia Caporale Bizzini
Keywords: Kazuo Ishiguro, Benjamin, Arendt, storytelling, memory, death


In his novels, Kazuo Ishiguro uses the narrators as storytellers, both in a Benjaminian and in an Arendtian sense. He uses this literary strategy in order to connect his characters’ construction of identity to their fragmented memory, a process which allows them to recover from their phantasmal and unresolved past. The central aim of this paper is to demonstrate that Ishiguro deploys the use of the literary strategy of the narrators’ storytelling differently in his first four novels and that it plays a more active role in When We Were Orphans (2000) and Never Let Me Go (2005). In these later novels the storytelling is closer to a dynamic subject agency and is used to demonstrate the narrator’s rejection of falling into a paralyzing sense of victimization. Self-nowledge is more actively related to a process of critical understanding of the narrators’ life experiences, as in their tales they leave aside the Benjaminian apocalyptic vision of the historical experience as paralysis and enter Hanna Arendt’s domain of storytelling as action.

Author Biography

Silvia Caporale Bizzini
Universitat de Vic / Universidad de Alicante