A Village After Dark by Kazuo Ishiguro


I almost decided not to review the short story “A Village After Dark” by Kazuo Ishiguro (2001) because it’s impossible to tell what’s really going on. This story is a first-person narrative but since the main character an unreliable narrator we don’t know if the actions are really happening or if this is just the way he’s perceiving them. Spoilers Follow.

This is my interpretation of what I think the most likely explanation, but it may not be correct at all because once you choose a particular path with this story everything has to follow from it. A man who used to be a great influencer of young people (in someway but that way is not spoken of) returns to his old village in England after having travelled for an unspecific amount of time.  He admits that he’s used to be mentally sharp but now he feels he is becoming senile. He can’t recognize anything in the village. He meets somebody who he doesn’t recognize who tells him to try a particular door and he’s invited in but he doesn’t know who these people are. They seem to know him, and they call him Fletcher. He seems to admit that he is indeed Fletcher. Apparently, Fletcher left the town and then spent many years as a homeless bum wandering based on his appearance which is disheveled with knotted matted hair. This story has been compared to Kafka’s The Castle.

In spite of all the negative, uncomplimentary feedback he receives from other people this does not change his self-image. At the end of the story he still feels optimistic that he will once again be able to be an influencer of young people and that gives him hope.  The negative feedback has not made any sort of impression upon him so he must be psychotic, or perhaps he is dreaming or perhaps he is in a coma? Maybe he has died, and this is the afterlife?

He has a conversation with a woman who accuses him of abusing her sexually, but he doesn’t remember her. It’s not clear if he has actually done these things or if this is some sort of elaborate joke. Nothing can be taken for granted. Then he meets a man who he has not seen since childhood. The man tells him that he used to beat up and bully him. The narrator does remember the incidents, but I wonder if perhaps this is also not true. Maybe he is easily subject to being influenced by lies or trickery in his diminished state? I can’t be sure if Fletcher is really a bully but for the sake of this story we shall assume that he was a bully. Fletcher does not feel any guilt for this abuse and instead he feels that he did a good deed in toughening the other boy up. Fletcher’s incredible lack of insight proves he is not mentally competent to remember what he’s done or to make amends. Now the other people are bullying him and treating him with disrespect instead of the other way around.

Notes: The New Yorker posted this story under the subtitle of “Bullies” and there is some possibility that the story is set in post-apocalyptic times. This brings us to wonder if Fletcher is some way to blame for the current conditions being experienced by the people in the village. Another person named David Maggis is mentioned in the story who may have been involved in some kind of revolutionary movement, but its not clear if that is really true.

Reference: Ben Marcus reads Kazuo Ishiguro’s “A Village After Dark,” and discusses it with The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s