Kazuo Ishiguro

Sir Kazuo Ishiguro OBE FRSA FRSL (/kæˈz ˌɪʃɪˈɡʊər, ˈkæzu -/; born 8 November 1954) is a British novelist, screenwriter, musician, and short-story writer. He was born in Nagasaki, Japan, and moved to Britain in 1960 when he was five.

Sir

Kazuo Ishiguro

OBE FRSA FRSL
Ishiguro in Stockholm in December 2017
Born (1954-11-08) 8 November 1954
Nagasaki, Japan
Occupation
  • Novelist
  • short story writer
  • screenwriter
  • columnist
  • songwriter
NationalityBritish
CitizenshipJapan (until 1983)
United Kingdom (since 1983)
Education
  • University of Kent (BA)
  • University of East Anglia (MA)
Period1981–present
Genre
  • Drama
  • Historical fiction
  • Science fiction
  • Genre fiction
Notable works
Notable awards
Spouse
Lorna MacDougall
(m. 1986)
ChildrenNaomi Ishiguro (b. 1992)

Ishiguro is one of the most celebrated contemporary fiction authors in English. He has received four Man Booker Prize nominations and won the award in 1989 for his novel The Remains of the Day. Time named Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go the best novel of 2005 and one of the 100 best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005.

In 2017, the Swedish Academy awarded Ishiguro the Nobel Prize in Literature, describing him in its citation as a writer "who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world".[1]

Early life

Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan, on 8 November 1954, the son of Shizuo Ishiguro, a physical oceanographer, and his wife, Shizuko.[2] At the age of five,[3] Ishiguro and his family left Japan and moved to Guildford, Surrey, as his father was invited for research at the National Institute of Oceanography (now the National Oceanography Centre).[2][4][5] He did not return to visit Japan until 1989, nearly 30 years later, when he was a participant in the Japan Foundation Short-Term Visitors' Program.

In an interview with Kenzaburō Ōe, Ishiguro stated that the Japanese settings of his first two novels were imaginary: "I grew up with a very strong image in my head of this other country, a very important other country to which I had a strong emotional tie … In England I was all the time building up this picture in my head, an imaginary Japan."[3]

Ishiguro, who has been described as a British Asian author,[6] explained in a BBC interview how growing up in a Japanese family in the UK was crucial to his writing, enabling him to see things from a different perspective to that of many of his English peers.[7]

He attended Stoughton Primary School and then Woking County Grammar School in Surrey.[2] Ishiguro sang solos as a choirboy at his church choir and school choir, and had a local fame due to the "angelic" qualities of his voice.[8] He also enjoyed music as a teenager, listening to songs by the likes of Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and, particularly, Bob Dylan.[9] Ishiguro began learning guitar and writing songs, and initially aimed to become a professional songwriter.[10][11] After finishing school in 1973,[12] he took a gap year and travelled through the United States and Canada, all the while writing a journal and sending demo tapes to record companies. He also worked as a grouse beater for the Queen Mother at Balmoral Castle.[2][10] Ishiguro later reflected on his ephemeral songwriting career, saying, "I used to see myself as some sort of musician type but there came a point when I thought: actually, this isn't me at all. I'm much less glamorous. I'm one of these people with corduroy jackets with elbow patches. It was a real comedown."[11]

In 1974, he began studies at the University of Kent at Canterbury, graduating in 1978 with a Bachelor of Arts (honours) in English and philosophy.[2] After spending a year writing fiction, he resumed his studies at the University of East Anglia where he studied with Malcolm Bradbury and Angela Carter, and gained a Master of Arts in creative writing in 1980.[2][4] His thesis became his first novel, A Pale View of Hills, published in 1982.[13]

He became a UK citizen in 1983.[14]

Literary career

Ishiguro set his first two novels in Japan; however, in several interviews, he said that he has little familiarity with Japanese writing and that his works bear little resemblance to Japanese fiction.[15] In an interview in 1989, when discussing his Japanese heritage and its influence on his upbringing, he stated, "I'm not entirely like English people because I've been brought up by Japanese parents in a Japanese-speaking home. My parents (...) felt responsible for keeping me in touch with Japanese values. I do have a distinct background. I think differently, my perspectives are slightly different."[16] In a 1990 interview, Ishiguro said, "If I wrote under a pseudonym and got somebody else to pose for my jacket photographs, I'm sure nobody would think of saying, 'This guy reminds me of that Japanese writer.'"[15] Although some Japanese writers have had a distant influence on his writing—Jun'ichirō Tanizaki is the one he most frequently cites—Ishiguro has said that Japanese films, especially those of Yasujirō Ozu and Mikio Naruse, have been a more significant influence.[17]

Ishiguro (front) with the cast of the Never Let Me Go film in 2010

Some of Ishiguro's novels are set in the past. Never Let Me Go has science fiction qualities and a futuristic tone; however, it is set in the 1980s and 1990s, and takes place in a parallel world very similar to ours. His fourth novel, The Unconsoled, takes place in an unnamed Central European city. The Remains of the Day is set in the large country house of an English lord in the period surrounding World War II.[18]

An Artist of the Floating World is set in an unnamed Japanese city during the Occupation of Japan following the nation's surrender in 1945. The narrator is forced to come to terms with his part in World War II. He finds himself blamed by the new generation who accuse him of being part of Japan's misguided foreign policy, and is forced to confront the ideals of the modern times as represented by his grandson. Ishiguro said of his choice of time period, "I tend to be attracted to pre-war and postwar settings because I'm interested in this business of values and ideals being tested, and people having to face up to the notion that their ideals weren't quite what they thought they were before the test came."[16]

With the exception of The Buried Giant, Ishiguro's novels are written in the first-person narrative style.[19]

Ishiguro's novels often end without resolution. The issues his characters confront are buried in the past and remain unresolved. Thus Ishiguro ends many of his novels on a note of melancholic resignation. His characters accept their past and who they have become, typically discovering that this realisation brings comfort and an ending to mental anguish. This can be seen as a literary reflection on the Japanese idea of mono no aware. Ishiguro counts Dostoyevsky and Proust amongst his influences. His works have also been compared to Salman Rushdie, Jane Austen, and Henry James, though Ishiguro himself rejects these comparisons.[20]

In 2017, Ishiguro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, because "in novels of great emotional force, [he] has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world".[1] In response to receiving the award, Ishiguro stated:

It's a magnificent honour, mainly because it means that I'm in the footsteps of the greatest authors that have lived, so that's a terrific commendation. The world is in a very uncertain moment and I would hope all the Nobel Prizes would be a force for something positive in the world as it is at the moment. I'll be deeply moved if I could in some way be part of some sort of climate this year in contributing to some sort of positive atmosphere at a very uncertain time.[13]

On 7 February 2019, Ishiguro received a knighthood for services to literature.[21]

Ishiguro's eighth novel, Klara and the Sun, was published by Faber and Faber on March 2, 2021. Rumaan Alam of The New Republic wrote it is "more simple than it seems, less novel than parable."[22]

Musical work

Ishiguro has co-written several songs for the jazz singer Stacey Kent with saxophonist Jim Tomlinson, Kent's husband. Ishiguro contributed lyrics to Kent's 2007 Grammy-nominated album Breakfast on the Morning Tram,[23] including its title track, her 2011 album, Dreamer in Concert, her 2013 album The Changing Lights,[24] and her 2017 album, I Know I Dream. Ishiguro also wrote the liner notes to Kent's 2003 album, In Love Again.[25] Ishiguro first met Kent after he chose her recording of "They Can't Take That Away from Me" as one of his Desert Island Discs in 2002 and Kent subsequently asked him to write for her.

Ishiguro has said of his lyric writing that "with an intimate, confiding, first-person song, the meaning must not be self-sufficient on the page. It has to be oblique, sometimes you have to read between the lines" and that this realisation has had an "enormous influence" on his fiction writing.[26]

Personal life

Ishiguro has been married to Lorna MacDougall, a social worker, since 1986.[27] They met at the West London Cyrenians homelessness charity in Notting Hill, where Ishiguro was working as a residential resettlement worker. The couple live in London.[12] Their daughter, Naomi Ishiguro, is also pursuing a career as an author.[28]

He describes himself as a "serious cinephile" and "great admirer of Bob Dylan",[29] the 2016 recipient of the Nobel Literature prize.[30]

Awards

  • 1982: Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize for A Pale View of Hills[4]
  • 1983: Published in the Granta Best Young British Novelists issue[31]
  • 1986: Whitbread Prize for An Artist of the Floating World[4]
  • 1989: Booker Prize for The Remains of the Day[4]
  • 1993: Published in the Granta Best Young British Novelists issue[32]
  • 1995: Officer of the Order of the British Empire[4]
  • 1998: Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres[4]
  • 2005: Never Let Me Go named on Time magazine's list of the 100 greatest English language novels since the magazine's formation in 1923.[33]
  • 2008: The Times ranked Ishiguro 32nd on their list of "The 50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945".[34]
  • 2017: Nobel Prize in Literature[1]
  • 2017: American Academy of Achievement's Golden Plate Award[35]
  • 2018: Order of the Rising Sun, 2nd Class, Gold and Silver Star
  • 2019: Knighthood for services to literature

Except for A Pale View of Hills and The Buried Giant, all of Ishiguro's novels and his short story collection have been shortlisted for major awards.[4] Most significantly, An Artist of the Floating World, When We Were Orphans, and Never Let Me Go were all short-listed for the Booker Prize (as was The Remains of the Day, which won it). A leaked account of a judging committee's meeting revealed that the committee found itself deciding between Never Let Me Go and John Banville's The Sea before awarding the prize to the latter.[36][37]

Works

Novels

Short-story collections

  • Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall (2009)[38]

Screenplays

  • A Profile of Arthur J. Mason (television film for Channel 4)[12] (1984)
  • The Gourmet (television film for Channel 4) (1987)
  • The Saddest Music in the World (2003)[38]
  • The White Countess (2005)[38]

Short fiction

  • "A Strange and Sometimes Sadness", "Waiting for J" and "Getting Poisoned" (in Introduction 7: Stories by New Writers, 1981)[38]
  • "A Family Supper" (in Firebird 2: Writing Today, 1983)[38]
  • "Summer After the War" (in Granta 7, 1983)[38][41]
  • "October 1948" (in Granta 17, 1985)[38][42]
  • "A Village After Dark" (in The New Yorker, May 21, 2001)[38][43]

Lyrics

  • "The Ice Hotel"; "I Wish I Could Go Travelling Again"; "Breakfast on the Morning Tram", and "So Romantic"; Jim Tomlinson / Kazuo Ishiguro, on Stacey Kent's 2007 Grammy-nominated album, Breakfast on the Morning Tram.[23]
  • "Postcard Lovers"; Tomlinson / Ishiguro, on Kent's album Dreamer in Concert (2011).
  • "The Summer We Crossed Europe in the Rain"; "Waiter, Oh Waiter", and "The Changing Lights"; Tomlinson / Ishiguro, on Kent's album The Changing Lights (2013).[24]
  • "Bullet Train"; "The Changing Lights", and "The Ice Hotel"; Tomlinson / Ishiguro, on Kent's album I Know I Dream: The Orchestral Sessions (2017).
  • "The Ice Hotel"; Tomlinson / Ishiguro – Quatuor Ébène, featuring Stacey Kent, on the album Brazil (2013).

Adaptations

  • The Remains of the Day (1993 film)
  • The Remains of the Day (2010 musical), Union Theatre, London
  • Never Let Me Go (2010 film)

References

  1. "The Nobel Prize in Literature 2017 – Press Release". Nobel Prize. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  2. Lewis, Barry (2000). Kazuo Ishiguro. Manchester University Press.
  3. Oe, Kenzaburo (1991). "The Novelist in Today's World: A Conversation". boundary 2. 18 (3): 110.
  4. "Kazuo Ishiguro". British Council. Archived from the original on 2 March 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  5. "Modelling the oceans". Science Museum Group. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  6. Tamara S. Wagner (2008). "Gorged-out Cadavers of Hills". In Neil Murphy; Wai-Chew Sim (eds.). British Asian Fiction: Framing the Contemporary. Cambria Press. p. 165. ISBN 978-1604975413. British Asian authors like Timothy Mo or Kazuo Ishiguro.
  7. "Kazuo Ishiguro keeps calm amid Nobel Prize frenzy". BBC. 6 October 2017.
  8. Gross, Terry (17 March 2021). "Kazuo Ishiguro Draws On His Songwriting Past To Write Novels About The Future". Fresh Air. NPR. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  9. Harvey, Giles (23 February 2021). "Kazuo Ishiguro Sees What the Future Is Doing to Us". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  10. "Sir Kazuo Ishiguro Biography and Interview". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
  11. "Kazuo Ishiguro: I used to see myself as a musician. But really, I'm one of those people with corduroy jackets and elbow patches". the Guardian. 15 March 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  12. Wroe, Nicholas (19 February 2005). "Living Memories: Kazuo Ishiguro". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  13. "Kazuo Ishiguro: Nobel Literature Prize is 'a magnificent honour'". BBC News. 5 October 2017. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  14. Wroe, Nicholas (19 February 2005). "Profile: Kazuo Ishiguro". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  15. Vorda, Allan; Herzinger, Kim (1994). "Stuck on the Margins: An Interview with Kazuo Ishiguro". Face to Face: Interviews with Contemporary Novelists. Rice University Press. p. 25. ISBN 0-8926-3323-9.
  16. Swift, Graham (Fall 1989). "Kazuo Ishiguro". BOMB. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  17. Mason, Gregory (1989). "An Interview with Kazuo Ishiguro". Contemporary Literature. 30 (3): 336. doi:10.2307/1208408. JSTOR 1208408.
  18. Beech, Peter (7 January 2016). "The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – a subtle masterpiece of quiet desperation". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  19. Rushdie, Salman (15 August 2014). "Salman Rushdie on Kazuo Ishiguro: His legendary novel The Remains of the Day resurges". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  20. "Kazuo Ishiguro". The Guardian. 22 July 2008. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  21. "Kazuo Ishiguro: Knighthood part of 'big love affair with Britain'". The Irish Times. 7 February 2019.
  22. Alam, Rumaan (12 April 2021). "Kazuo Ishiguro's Deceptively Simple Story of AI". New Republic. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  23. Breakfast on the Morning Tram at AllMusic
  24. The Changing Lights at AllMusic
  25. "Why 'Breakfast on the Morning Tram'?". StaceyKent.com. Archived from the original on 17 February 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  26. Kellaway, Kate (15 March 2015). "Kazuo Ishiguro: I used to see myself as a musician. But really, I'm one of those people with corduroy jackets and elbow patches". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  27. "My friend Kazuo Ishiguro: 'an artist without ego, with deeply held beliefs'". The Guardian. 8 October 2017.
  28. Mabbott, Alastair (16 February 2020). "Review: Escape Routes by Naomi Ishiguro". The Herald. Glasgow. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  29. "Kazuo Ishiguro, a Nobel laureate for these muddled times". The Economist. 5 October 2017.
  30. "The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016". archive.ph. 20 September 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  31. "Granta 7: Best of Young British Novelists". Archived from the original on 18 May 2008. Retrieved 6 May 2008.
  32. "Granta 43: Best of Young British Novelists 2". Archived from the original on 11 May 2008. Retrieved 6 May 2008.
  33. "Time magazine's greatest English novels". The Times. 5 January 2008. Retrieved 19 February 2010.
  34. "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945". The Times. London. 5 January 2008. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  35. "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
  36. Gekoski, Rick (12 October 2005). "At last, the best Booker book won". The Times. Retrieved 28 June 2010.
  37. Gekoski, Rick (16 October 2005). "It's the critics at Sea". The Age. Retrieved 28 June 2010. In the end, it came down to a debate between The Sea and Never Let Me Go.
  38. Kazuo Ishiguro on Nobelprize.org , accessed 28 April 2020
  39. Furness, Hannah (4 October 2014). "Kazuo Ishiguro: My wife thought first draft of The Buried Giant was rubbish". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  40. Flood, Alison (16 June 2020). "Kazuo Ishiguro announces new novel, Klara and the Sun". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  41. Ishiguro, Kazuo (1 March 1983). "Summer after the War". Granta Magazine. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  42. Ishiguro, Kazuo (1 September 1985). "October, 1948". Granta Magazine. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  43. Ishiguro, Kazuo (14 May 2001). "A Village After Dark". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
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