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Butler and English Countryside

I have qualms about the failure to recall details from endearing novels. The obdurate pursuit to preserving memories of these great literature works spawns the effort to re-read. A good inventive for me to re-read, at least to me, is to refresh my memory before watching a film adaptation. The next viewing is based on a novel that a simultaneously a beguiling comedy of manners and a heart-rending study of personality and class. The description of British countryside is a perfect example of totality, where every element and detail is related and relevant:

And yet tonight, in the quiet of this room, I find that what really remains with me from the first day’s travel is not Salisbury Cathedral, nor any of the other charming sights of this city, but rather that marvellous view encountered this morning of the rolling English countryside. … It has never, of course, been my privilege to have seen such things at first hand, but I will nevertheless hazard this with some confidence: the English landscape at its finest—such as I saw it this morning—possesses a quality that the landscapes of other nations, however more superficially dramatic, inevitably fail to possess. … And yet what precisely is this ‘greatness’? Just where, or in what, does it lie? I am quite aware it would take a far wiser head than mine to answer such a question, but if I were forced to hazard a guess, I would say that it is the very lack of obvious drama or spectacle that sets the beauty of our land apart. What is pertinent is the calmness of that beauty, its sense of restraint. It is as though the land knows of its own beauty, of its own greatness, and feels no need to shout it. [28]

The narrator in The Remains of the Day equates the career of a butler of first rank to the beauty of English countryside: so subdued and yet radiant, possessing a dignity in keeping with its position. This is English prose at its utter elegance. I find it necessary to re-visit the book once more before the film.

9 Responses

  1. Beautiful literary works needs to be re-visited once in a while. I love the passage you quoted. Shows the essence of your penultimate sentence.

  2. Love the writing of this book! Definitely worth re-visiting.

  3. […] Guy’s Moleskine Notebook posts on The Remains of the Day, a book I am eager to […]

  4. Such beautifully written words. It has been far too long since I’ve read this book. I think it is very like something Forster could have written.

  5. I loved the book, for me, the most accessible of this author. I think Anthony Hopkins captured Stevens wonderfully in the adaptation. It’s an excellent film with some visual symbolism of its own to complement the captivating and subtle imagery of Ishiguro. It’s also one of Merchant and Ivory’s best films.

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