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USING MEDIA FOR TEACHING ENGLISH: LITERATURE: ISHIGURO

Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954 and came to Britain at the age of five. He is the author of four novels:
A Pale View of Hills (1982)
An Artist of the Floating World (1986)
The Remains of the Day (1989, winner of the Booker Prize)
The Unconsoled (1995)

A Pale View of Hills (1982)
A Pale View of Hills is not only a story about Etsuko, a Japanese woman now living in England and divulging in memories of the hills of her hometown Nagasaki, but is is also a story about clashes between the older and the younger generation and about clashes between American values and Japanese traditions as they competed after the Second World War.

amazon.de A Pale View of Hills
by
Kazuo Ishiguro
amazon.de

The older generation represented by Ogata-San, Father of Etsuko's husband, regrets the loss of discipline, loyalty and a sense of duty which used to hold Japan together. Today obligation is non-existent and it is selfishness which rules young people. Ogata-San even accuses Shigeo Matsuda of discriminating him publicly in an educational magazine because Shigeo names Ogata-San as an example of outdated values. Ogata thinks that Shigeo has been brainwashed by the Americans.

Young people like Sachiko (Etsuko's friend) is so enthusiastic about the USA that she wants to emigrate there. Only in America she thinks can she offer her little daughter all the opportunities, as her utmost importance is her 'daughter's welfare'. Frank-San, her American husband, however, who has talked her into coming with him to America, is an alcoholic, who usually can't be relied on, but Sachiko is confident enough as to Frank's promise to take her and her daughter to the USA.

Then there is the earlier mentioned Etsuko, from whose point of view the story is told. She emigrated, too, and now lives in Northern England with her daughter Niki living in London. She visits her mother once in a while. Her second daughter Keiko has recently committed suicide. No reason is given , but one can assume that she could not cope with a different lifestyle and with the fact that her father has left the family. Ironically English papers maintained that all Japanese tend to commit suicide.

Then finally there is Mrs Fujiwara, an older woman who lost almost all her family ' when the bomb fell' and is now running her own little restaurant, also called the noodle shop. Her life-motto is to tell all her friends how important it is 'to keep looking forward'. Without that motto, she argues, Nagasaki would not have been rebuilt and she herself wouldn't have been the owner of that little restaurant.

Anyone who wants to read that novel in class should be aware that there isn't much concerning English or American lifestyle or area studies (Landeskunde). What's more, one would have to know more about Japanese traditions and values as to better appreciate the novel in class. There is still a lot to talk about in class (atomic bomb on Nagasaki; the reeducation programme of the Americans in Japan etc.), but one would have to do some research on one's own. In my opinion 'The Remains of the Day' is more suitable as a reader in class.


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