How to Employ Nagasaki: Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills (1982)

Author: Akiyoshi Suzuki, Nagasaki University, Japan
Published: December 14, 2020

Citation: Suzuki, A. (2020). How to Employ Nagasaki: Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills (1982). IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship, 9(2).


Not a few scholars believe that representation of scenery in Nagasaki is a mockery in Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel A Pale View of Hills (1982). However, Etsuko’s narration faithfully represents individual facts about Nagasaki, but her combinations of facts are not consistent with the real world. Overall, Ishiguro’s narrative strategy is to represent as realistically as possible how a person’s memory works; at a time when rigid opposition between history and fiction collapsed as a result of the expanding literary theory of postmodernist positivism. A somewhat distorted narrative of recollections holds true not only in Etsuko but in human beings generally. If everything in the record of one’s past life is fictional, realizing how one’s memory is distorted or colored is impossible. Thus, Ishiguro wrote Etsuko’s reminiscences by faithfully describing facts of Nagasaki, for instance, nonlinguistic artifacts and relics, but making them anachronistic or discordant in time and space. This strategy resists the postmodern view of history and simultaneously emphasizes human memories’ ambiguities and distortions. Nagasaki, as a faithful background setting for Etsuko’s memories, is entirely plausible because Ishiguro was born and raised there until he was six years old. Yet, the realism of A Pale View of Hills encompasses a universal story of reminiscence or human testimony by employing the narratives of an atomic-bomb victim and a war bride.


A Pale View of Hills, Kazuo Ishiguro, Nagasaki, narrative, reminiscence, testimony