At center stage in Kazuo Ishiguro's work is the figure of the nonactor: a character type that confronts us time and again with scenarios in which action is devalued. This essay shows that, despite finding themselves in situations that mandate action, Ishiguro's characters opt instead for risk-averse and mechanical-like behaviors that are antonymous to change. This, however, is not a solely aesthetic phenomenon, and the essay examines the figure of the nonactor in Ishiguro's novels as part of a broader turn toward nonaction. It does so by considering this figure in relation to a distinctly twentieth-century context within which, as Hannah Arendt has it, human action came to be seen as more dangerous than ever before. Ishiguro's nonactors can be seen as the legacy, but also as the mutations, of this understanding in our own era and in the contemporary novel. This legacy, the essay demonstrates, reveals an underexamined aspect of the neoliberal mind-set that dominates the post–Cold War world. Rather than promote the worthiness of individual, self-serving action, Ishiguro's novels bring to the forefront something different though no less pernicious: a wholescale devaluation of the individual's capacity to act.

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