The Remains of the Day (Vintage International, 1993) is by Kazuo Ishiguro, the author of eight novels who won the 2017 Nobel in Literature. I first read this book twenty plus years ago. Re-reading it, I was struck by the original story line and by the choice of words. It is a deeply moving portrait of an English butler, and his fading, insular world, following WWII. Prior to the war, he was the butler to a “great gentleman” at Darlington Hall. After its acquisition by a young American Congressman, he embarks on a search to find a former housekeeper, whose help he needs for the service of his new master. During the drive, he reflects over his career, reassuring himself of the benefit to his former master, and of his lingering faith in the man he once served.
Given the situation in the Middle East and other war-torn areas, East West Street, by Philippe Sands (Knopf) is poignant. It is an account of the origins of crimes against humanity and genocide. It is a well-written book, which I highly recommend because it relates the personal and intellectual evolution of two men, Rafael Lemkin and Hersch Lauterpacht, who simultaneously originated the ideas of “genocide” and “crimes against humanity.” They did not know each other, yet studied at the same university with the same professors in a city little known today that was a major cultural center of Europe. “The little Paris of Ukraine,” was variously called Lemberg, Lwów, Lvov, or Lviv.
“The little town lies in the middle of a great plain…It begins with little huts and ends with them. After a while, the huts are replaced by houses. Streets begin. One runs from north to south, the other from east to west.”
Joseph Roth – The Wandering Jews, 1927
“What haunts are not the dead, but the gaps left within us by the secrets of others.”
Nicholas Abraham – Notes on the Phantom, 1975