The Art of Remembrance: Ishiguro and Rwanda

The main character of Ishiguro's Artist of the Floating World is categorized by this lost emptiness in post-WWII Japan. Masuji Ono, once a famous painter and supporter of the nationalism of the war effort, now has a filtered memory of his past. What I found most interesting was not his paintings or career as an artist that he recalls briefly, but instead that every story is centered around people. Ono's memory is exclusively story that he recalls most fondly of meeting, chatting, and drinking with his colleges and students. However, his act of remembering these events is not untainted. In face, he explicitly says “there seems little to be gained in my recalling such things here” (142). In this, he hints at the bitterness, sadness, and confusion of these lost times. However, using these memories seems to be Ishiguro's way for Ono to wrestle with the traumatic events of the war. Loss of his wife and son, his colleagues dispersed, the pleasure district destroyed, there is much to be discouraged about. However, we can see the progression of Ono as he seems to come to terms more and more with his past mistakes, "if one has failed only where others have not had the courage or will to try, there is consolation - indeed, deep satisfaction - to be gained from his observation when looking back over one's life." (134) In this way, we can see that memory is used by the author to show the progress of healing through Ono as well as show the importance of memory in relationship to social interactions.

The Rwandan genocide flame, known as the "Kwibuka" (Remembering) 20-years, is escorted by residents upon arrival at the Kicukiro Grounds as the country prepares to commemorate the 1994 Genocide in the Rwandan capital April 5, 2014. An estimated 800,000 people were killed in 100 days during this genocide. REUTERS/Noor Khamis (RWANDA - Tags: ANNIVERSARY POLITICS SOCIETY)

The Rwandan genocide flame, known as the "Kwibuka" (Remembering) 20-years, is escorted by residents upon arrival at the Kicukiro Grounds as the country prepares to commemorate the 1994 Genocide in the Rwandan capital April 5, 2014. An estimated 800,000 people were killed in 100 days during this genocide. REUTERS/Noor Khamis (RWANDA - Tags: ANNIVERSARY POLITICS SOCIETY)

This process of memory-shaping can seen through collective memory in Rwanda. As a tribute to the horror of the 100 day genocide, each year they have a ceremony with banners everywhere, kwibuka—“remember.” This is always interrupted by painful screams, outbursts of the pain of memory and the process of healing without forgetting. However, this forced act of memory is not easy. Instead, the week of remembrance in Rwanda is evidence that in a society, losing its vivid memory to the next generation, the only way to heal is through this story-telling. The need for justice of memory overwhelms the pain of the process. As the New Yorker states in, Remembering Rwanda, "So there is memory that we manage, and there is memory that manages us."

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