On Ishiguro’s Nobel Prize, motherhood, and memories

After all, 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?
Kazuo Ishiguro, Remains of the Day

So. The hubby is returning back to work tomorrow after a cycling accident that rendered me awestruck at the miracles we witnessed. To write or not to write – that is the question. Because to me, whose digital footprint spans three blogs, there are just some milestones and moments that are too precious, too close to the heart to be shared with strangers. Thus. At the moment, all I want to proclaim is Hallelujah! God is good. God is sovereign. He cares. He provides. Angels to carry us …. I will write anyway, please keep on reading. ūüôā

Like everyone else, life sucks me into a vortex of busyness that months later makes one ask “Where did the hours go?”

Maybe that’s also what Stevens, the butler, thought at the end of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day. Who really knows? But yes … it must be. Stevens’ ruminations on his past life while traveling through the British countryside can – if you think about it long enough – be brought to conclusion with the question “Where did the years go?” It’s the query to end time travels to the past.

Which, as any housewife can tell you, is a question that most mothers ponder at the end of the day, er, years of their servitude as household managers, cook, laundromat, etc …. Hopefully, you get the point.

But that’s not why I’m writing today. Yesterday morning, I could not get back to sleep. The subject on my mind was the previous night’s news: the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature had gone to Ishiguro,¬†“who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.”¬†

Having slogged through his last book, The Buried Giant, I was stupefied that an author whose last work had brought down my esteem for his writing had won. (My review of  The Buried Giant is here.)

The hubby, bless his heart, does not overthink. He gets up, reads the Bible, digests the news, then thinks of the jobs to do around the house that need his attention. Me? I overthink. All the time. It’s a bad habit, I know (and the reason why I can never finish an entire stack of clothes to be ironed.)

Back to yesterday morn: I sat up in bed and mused on my years of motherhood. Then struggled to rationalize the committee’s choice. In a flash, the lightbulb moment came despite the lack of coffee. Authors win the Nobel Prize because they not only distill our experiences into words that conjure images in our mind and sensations in our hearts, approximating how we feel to a degree that is uncanny for a work of fiction… according to Waseda University Prof. Koji Toko, Ishiguro’s win reflects the fact that “vague sensations such as memories, nostalgia and delusions are what constitute the reality of our lives.”

Do they? Frankly, I don’t think so. But. Let’s face it, the fictional lives that authors create so resonate with us because we can easily step into their shoes of their characters. In fact, most often, we wish we were in their shoes. Literally.

I suppose all well-loved writers accomplish those things. In my case, I hated The Buried Giant yet have to concede that for all the cumbersome work of wading through its pages,¬† Ishiguro still accomplished his goal in writing it. I was left with the sense that a “mist of forgetfulness” can serve a higher purpose in life (the fact that I am now entering the golden years and have become forgetful has no bearing on this sentiment, believe it or not). Don’t we all wish to erase certain memories? As the Swedish Academy’s secretary Sara Danius remarked, Ishiguro won for “exploring what you have to forget in order to survive in the first place as an individual or as a society.”

Then too, like Stevens, I have often wondered whether, with graying hair and feeble bones, I will be forced to be content with whatever remains of my current life will still be there in the future. Like Stevens, whose blind loyalty to his foolish employer kept him from seeking relationships, have I been blind to the emotional needs of my children as I struggle to keep the house spic and span? The latter is something I feel ambivalent about – it’s how stay-at-home mothers are judged – not only because I like order but because it takes away a lot of time from mothering. Age has brought security in my choices, yes, but should I have been less fastidious and mothered more?

Perhaps I would not have pondered Ishiguro’s win so much if I had not had experienced memory loss and its effects so close to home recently. But the hubby’s incoherent babbling and transformation to Dory forcefully reminded me that we are creatures of memory as much as habit. Memories shape our responses to love, loss, the passage of time and emotions such as regret¬† if not as equally well as the physical reality of the present.

Would amnesia leave as much devastation if memory and time were not inexplicably linked? Why is it that older memories are always associated with our younger selves? For most of humanity, photographs bear silent witness to what others may dismiss as figments of our imagination. For the hubby, his Tomtom testified that he crashed at exactly 6:28 pm on the last Tuesday evening of September. Without it, we would have been forced to rely only on the testimony memory of his cycling companions. Because. Try as he can, the hubby cannot recall the events leading to and after his crash.

But. Enough of thinking! There’s one difference between Stevens and moi. I’m married to the boss of the house, ha, ha. Ishiguro¬† and I both share one thing in common, though: spouses who enable us to write by picking up our slack in housework. Meanwhile …¬† being a night owl …¬† here’s my favorite quote from Remains of the Day:

You’ve got to enjoy yourself. 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. That’s how I look at it. Ask anybody, they’ll all tell you. The evening’s the best part of the day.¬†

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