Dream logic and unreliability in Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled

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Narratologists remain divided over how and if narrative unreliability works in literary dream sequences. Many believe that Wayne C. Booth’s idea of unreliable narration as a “secret communion” of author and reader “behind the narrator’s back” does not extend to surrealistic prose styles, in which Booth claimed “the author and reader may meet, like Voltaire and God, but they do not speak”. While recent scholarship has challenged this notion, few studies have examined how traditional norms of unreliability might function within literary dream logic specifically. My paper aims to reconcile these approaches, using as a case study Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Unconsoled (1995), a text unique in pairing dream prose with a narrator whose self-deception exemplifies the ironic gap central to unreliable narration. Employing theories of unreliability, narrative processing, and dream interpretation, I analyse the relationship between dream logic and narrative structures in The Unconsoled. I argue these dream laws come to signify the narrator’s self-deception, rendering his account suspect as an alternative, ironic account emerges in its shadow. Examining these concepts together illuminates how unreliability might operate outside conventional realism while showcasing how dreams can function as literary devices within one of the most enduring frameworks in narratology.

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