Kazuo Ishiguro has won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature, and anyone who has read his amazing work is, well, stoked. Ishiguro has met incredible acclaim for his seven novels, which include Never Let Me Go and The Buried Giant. But perhaps Ishiguro's most beloved book (well, depending on who you ask) is the masterpiece The Remains of the Day, which won the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 1989 and was adapted into a film starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson in 1993. If you haven't read it – or just need a refresher — here are 11 of the best quotes from The Remains of the Dayto remind you why this novel has become a beloved modern classic.
The Remains of the Day is set in England in the summer of 1956, and follows a butler named Stevens, who has spent his life working in a high-class English household. Stevens sets out on a "motoring trip" through the West County to visit Miss Kenton, a housekeeper who left 20 years ago to get married to another man. As the book progresses, Stevens is thrown into the depths of his own mind, slowly uncovering (and sometimes looking past) the truths about his own identity, his history, and the restraint that has ruled his life so completely. Readers are able to observe his emotions peel away layer by layer, and you feel every ounce of his crisis as he tries to understand the walls he has built around himself.
Ishiguro's prose is deft and graceful, each word falling precisely into place. Even just reading a snippet of his writing is likely to make your eyes open a little wider and your heart thump a little harder. He has an innate ability to pin down the stark, subtle truths of the human spirit and weave. Without a doubt, his words will make you cry.
So, take a moment to celebrate Ishiguro's well-deserved Nobel Prize win with these beautiful quotes from The Remains of The Day:
“Indeed — why should I not admit it? — in that moment, my heart was breaking.”
"What can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives have not turned out quite as we might have wished? The hard reality is, surely, that for the likes of you and I, there is little choice other than to leave our fate, ultimately, in the hands of those great gentlemen at the hub of this world who employ our services. What is the point in worrying oneself too much about what one could or could not have done to control the course one’s life took? Surely it is enough that the likes of you and I at least try to make our small contribution count for something true and worthy. And if some of us are prepared to sacrifice much in life in order to pursue such aspirations, surely that is in itself, whatever the outcome, cause for pride and contentment.”
“If you are under the impression you have already perfected yourself, you will never rise to the heights you are no doubt capable of.”
“But what is the sense in forever speculating what might have happened had such and such a moment turned out differently? One could presumably drive oneself to distraction in this way. In any case, while it is all very well to talk of 'turning points', one can surely only recognize such moments in retrospect. Naturally, when one looks back to such instances today, they may indeed take the appearance of being crucial, precious moments in one's life; but of course, at the time, this was not the impression one had. Rather, it was as though one had available a never-ending number of days, months, years in which to sort out the vagaries of one's relationship with Miss Kenton; an infinite number of further opportunities in which to remedy the effect of this or that misunderstanding. There was surely nothing to indicate at the time that such evidently small incidents would render whole dreams forever irredeemable.”
"What is pertinent is the calmness of beauty, its sense of restraint. It is as though the land knows of its own beauty, its own greatness, and feels no need to shout it.”
“One is not struck by the truth until prompted quite accidentally by some external event.”
“The rest of my life stretches out as an emptiness before me.”
"It was one of those events which at a crucial stage in one's development arrive to challenge and stretch one to the limit of one's ability and beyond, so that thereafter one has a new standard by which to judge oneself.”
"The evening’s the best part of the day. You’ve done your day’s work. Now you can put your feet up and enjoy it. "
“Perhaps it is indeed time I began to look at this whole matter of bantering more enthusiastically. After all, when one thinks about it, it is not such a foolish thing to indulge in – particularly if it is the case that in bantering lies the key to human warmth.”
“Perhaps, then, there is something to his advice that I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of my day.”