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Kazuo Ishiguro and Max Frisch: Bending Facts in Unreliable and Unnatural Narration


Zuzana Fonioková

Since the late 1990s unreliable narration has garnered popularity in narrative theory and has sparked a lively debate among scholars. This book traces the theoretical discussions surrounding narrative unreliability and examines the relationship of unreliable narration to antimimetic techniques of portraying self-deception. Standing on the border between classical and postclassical narratology, the study analyses Kazuo Ishiguro’s and Max Frisch’s innovative narrative strategies, offering new perspectives on their œuvre and on unreliable narration as a narratological concept. A comparison of the methods Ishiguro and Frisch employ to explore the psychology of their narrators reveals a fascinating parallel in their development as novelists.
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← 244 | 245 → Conclusion


, I will highlight an aspect that all the novels examined in this book share: the narrators’ efforts to transform their selves. The topic of the invented nature of one’s identity, which is treated explicitly in Frisch’s works, appears in Ishiguro’s fiction as well, albeit in a less direct manner. The process of self-invention is represented either by the narrators’ telling their self-narratives or by enacting such self-narratives and subjective world-view. These narrative methods result in unreliable or unnatural narratives, which stimulate different reading strategies.

The analyses of Ishiguro’s novels in part 2 show that the key to each narrator’s present state of mind lies in the past: although only the narrators of the first three novels are engaged in remembering the remote past in most of their narration, all of them are consciously or unconsciously concerned with their past. All the narrators deceive themselves about their self-narratives: their past contains something that they do not wish to acknowledge.

Ono in Artist retells his life as a painter, focusing especially on his achievements and incidents that are supposed to provide evidence of his leadership abilities, in an attempt to mask the triviality of his professional life. Nevertheless, Ono becomes the butt of the text’s irony, for his narration reveals exactly what he wishes to hide. Ono only partly succeeds at bending the facts: he manages to trick himself but not the reader. However, the novel puts limits on the reader’s superiority over the narrator: while in traditional...

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