The Buddha of Suburbia

Constructing and Deconstructing Otherness in Migrant Literature

One similarity that exists across Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills, Meera Syal’s Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee and Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia is the ambivalence that their characters feel outside of their motherland. More obviously in Syal’s and Kureishi’s novel, the characters try to reconstruct their identity so as to escape “other-ing.” For Ishiguro, it is his identity as a migrated Japanese writing about his homeland that calls into question definitions of “home.” To quote Brian Shaffer, “the focus of Ishiguro’s first novel is […] on the way in which people use other people’s stories to conceal yet, paradoxically, to reveal their own” (36-37). The idea of appropriating another person’s story to explore one’s own is a theme that links the three stories together. Etsuko explores her own guilt toward her dead daughter Keiko through Sachiko and Mariko; Tania explores her ambivalent identity as an Indian that is not from India through the film that she makes of Chila and Sunita; and Karim explores his cultural roots through typically colonialist plays like Kipling’s The Jungle Book (147). The ambivalence of identity calls into question its construction and subsequently, its deconstruction of cultural...

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