"I was a little concerned that a lot of people thought I wrote Merchant Ivory movies. I also thought if I was ever going to write something strange and difficult, that was the time." -- Kazuo Ishiguro
Kazuo Ishiguro OBE ( (Kazuo Ishiguro) or (Ishiguro Kazuo); born 8 November 1954) is a Japanese—English novelist. He was born in Nagasaki, Japan, and his family moved to England in 1960. Ishiguro obtained his Bachelor's degree from University of Kent in 1978 and his Master's from the University of East Anglia's creative writing course in 1980. He became a British citizen in 1982.
Ishiguro is one of the most celebrated contemporary fiction authors in the English-speaking world, having received four Man Booker Prize nominations, including winning the 1989 prize for his novel The Remains of the Day. In 2008, The Times named Ishiguro among their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".
Recently, his novel Never Let Me Go has been adapted to a film of the same name.
"All children have to be deceived if they are to grow up without trauma.""As a writer, I'm more interested in what people tell themselves happened rather than what actually happened.""I couldn't speak Japanese very well, passport regulations were changing, I felt British, and my future was in Britain. And it would also make me eligible for literary awards. But I still think I'm regarded as one of their own in Japan.""I do feel part of that generation of people who were rather idealistic in the '70s and became disillusioned in the '80s. Not just about social services issues, but the world.""I felt slightly superior to student politics, for instance. I had no reason to think this, but I thought of myself as slightly more seasoned. I became quite cynical talking to my student friends.""I had been plunged into a different world. I found myself spending half my time answering weird questions on book tours in the Midwest. People would stand up and explain to me the situation in their office and ask me whether they should resign or not.""I think I had actually served my apprenticeship as a writer of fiction by writing all those songs. I had already been through phases of autobiographical or experimental stuff.""I'm very fortunate in that I don't have money problems. I have lunch with my wife at home. I don't have to commute, so I have much more time with my family.""If you look at my last songs and first short stories, there is a real connection between them.""Memory is quite central for me. Part of it is that I like the actual texture of writing through memory.""My friends and I took songwriting very, very seriously. My hero was and still is Bob Dylan, but also people like Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell and that whole generation.""Now when I look back to the Guildford of that time, it seems far more exotic to me than Nagasaki.""Our family arrived in England in 1960. At that time I thought the war was ancient history. But if I think of 15 years ago from now, that's 1990, and that seems like yesterday to me.""People aren't quite sure what it means when a book is a Booker Prize winner. They're not quite sure what is being recommended, what literary values it stands for, because every year it stands for something different.""People were incredibly kind to our family and went out of their way to help.""Screenplays I didn't really care about, journalism, travel books, getting my writer friends to write about their dreams or something. I just determined to write the books I had to write.""The book was at a reasonably high position on the New York Times... before I was in the country. I thought it would be an interesting experiment to see if my presence here would push it up or down.""The world is crawling with authors touring now. They're like performance artists.""There are things I am more interested in than the clone thing. How are they trying to find their place in the world and make sense of their lives? To what extent can they transcend their fate? As time starts to run out, what are the things that really matter?""There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one.""There's a practical problem about time and energy, and a more subtle problem of what it does to a writer's head, to continually analyze why they write, where it all comes from, where it's going to.""What is difficult is the promotion, balancing the public side of a writer's life with the writing. I think that's something a lot of writers are having to face. Writers have become much more public now.""When I got to 40 or so... I had the sense when I looked back over my life I would actually see a mess of decisions, a few of which I had thought about, some of which I had sort of stumbled on, and many that I had no control over whatsoever.""When you become a parent, or a teacher, you turn into a manager of this whole system. You become the person controlling the bubble of innocence around a child, regulating it."
Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki on 8 November 1954, the son of Shigeo Ishiguro, an oceanographer, and his wife Shizuko. In 1960 his family, including his two sisters, moved to Guildford, Surrey so that his father could work on oil development in the North Sea. He attended Stoughton Primary School and then Woking County Grammar School in Surrey. After finishing school he took a 'gap year' and travelled through America and Canada, whilst writing a journal and sending demo tapes to record companies.
In 1974 he began studies at the University of Kent, Canterbury, and he graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor of Arts (honours) in English and Philosophy. After spending a year writing fiction, he resumed his studies at the University of East Anglia where he gained a Master of Arts in Creative Writing in 1980. He became a British citizen in 1982.
He co-wrote four of the songs on jazz singer Stacey Kent's 2009 Breakfast On the Morning Tram album. He also wrote the liner notes to Kent's 2003 album, In Love Again.
Ishiguro, who has been married since 1986, met his wife while working as a residential resettlement worker for the West London Cyrenians homelessness charity in Notting Hill. Lorna MacDougall, a social worker, also worked for the charity. They live in London with their daughter Naomi.
A number of his novels are set in the past. His most recent, Never Let Me Go, had science fiction qualities and a futuristic tone; however, the given time period is the late 1990s, and thus takes place in a very similar yet alternate world. 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.
An Artist of the Floating World is set in Ishiguro's birth town of Nagasaki during the period of reconstruction following the detonation of the atomic bomb 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.
The novels are written in the first-person narrative style and the narrators often exhibit human failings. Ishiguro's technique is to allow these characters to reveal their flaws implicitly during the narrative. The author thus creates a sense of pathos by allowing the reader to see the narrator's flaws while being drawn to sympathize with the narrator as well. This pathos is often derived from the narrator's actions, or, more often, inaction. In The Remains of the Day, the butler Stevens fails to act on his romantic feelings toward housekeeper Miss Kenton because he cannot reconcile his sense of service with his personal life.
Ishiguro's novels often end without any sense of 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 realization 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 and Japan
Ishiguro was born in Japan and has a Japanese name (the characters in the surname Ishiguro mean 'rock' and 'black' respectively). He set his first two novels in Japan; however, in several interviews he has had to clarify to the reading audience that he has little familiarity with Japanese writing and that his works bear little resemblance to Japanese fiction. In a 1990 interview he 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.'" Although some Japanese writers have had a distant influence on his writing ... Jun'ichir? Tanizaki is the one he most frequently cites ... Ishiguro has said that Japanese films, especially those of Yasujir? Ozu and Mikio Naruse, have been a more significant influence.
Ishiguro left Japan in 1960 at the age of 5 and did not return until 1989, nearly 30 years later, as a participant in the Japan Foundation Short-Term Visitors Program. In an interview with Kenzaburo Oe, Ishiguro acknowledged 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."
He was featured in the first two Granta Best of Young British Novelists: in 1983 and in 1993. He won the Whitbread Prize in 1986 for his second novel, An Artist of the Floating World. He won the Booker Prize in 1989 for his third novel, The Remains of the Day. An Artist of the Floating World, When We Were Orphans and his most recent novel, Never Let Me Go, were all short-listed for the Booker Prize. 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.
He was appointed OBE for services to literature in 1995, and was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture in 1998. On Time magazine's 2005 list of the 100 greatest English language novels published since the magazine formed in 1923, Never Let Me Go was the most recent novel. In 2008, The Times named Ishiguro among their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1989.