The Nobel Prize Winner For Literature

2017 - Kazuo Ishiguro

Born: 8 November, 1954, Nagasaki, Japan

Kazuo Ishiguro Quote: "Many of our deepest motives come, not from an adult logic of how things work in the world, but out of something that is frozen from childhood".

Prize share: 1/1

Books Written By Kazuo Ishiguro

About Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro (born 8 November 1954) is a Nobel Prize-winning English novelist, screenwriter, and short story writer. He was born in Nagasaki, Japan; his family moved to England in 1960 when he was five. Ishiguro graduated from the University of Kent with a bachelor's degree in English and Philosophy in 1978 and gained his master's from the University of East Anglia's creative writing course in 1980.

Ishiguro is considered one of the most celebrated contemporary fiction authors in the English-speaking world, having received four Man Booker Prize nominations and winning the 1989 award for his novel The Remains of the Day. His 2005 novel, Never Let Me Go, was named by Time as the best novel of 2005 and included in its list of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. His seventh novel, The Buried Giant, was published in 2015. Growing up in a Japanese family in the UK was crucial to his writing, as he says, enabling him to see things from a different perspective from many of his British peers.

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".

Ishiguro set his first two novels in Japan; however, in several interviews, he clarified that he has little familiarity with Japanese writing and that his works bear little resemblance to Japanese fiction. In an interview in 1989, when discussing his Japanese heritage and its influence on his upbringing, the author has stated, "I'm not entirely like English people because I've been brought up by Japanese parents in a Japanese-speaking home. My parents didn't realize that we were going to stay in this country for so long, they felt responsible for keeping me in touch with Japanese values. I do have a distinct background. I think differently, my perspectives are slightly different." When asked about his identity, the author says,

People are not two-thirds one thing and the remainder something else. Temperament, personality, or outlooks don’t divide quite like that. The bits don't separate clearly. You end up a funny homogeneous mixture. This is something that will become more common in the latter part of the century—people with mixed cultural backgrounds, and mixed racial backgrounds. That's the way the world is going.

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'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.

A number of his 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 thus takes place in a very similar parallel 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 an unnamed Japanese city during the period of reconstruction following Japan'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."

His novels (with the exception of The Buried Giant) 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 sympathise 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 towards 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 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 Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Marcel Proust amongst his influences. His works have also been compared to Salman Rushdie, Jane Austen, and Henry James, though Ishiguro himself rejects these comparisons.

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". 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.

In an interview after the announcement of the Nobel Prize, he said "I've always said throughout my career that although I've grown up in this country and I'm educated in this country, that a large part of my way of looking at the world, my artistic approach, is Japanese, because I was brought up by Japanese parents, speaking in Japanese" and "I have always looked at the world through my parents' eyes."


Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

Dr. Eileen Quinn Knight

Ishiguro is an excellent writer. If you just want to see how words flow, this is the book for you! The story is intriguing and real. It could be considered somewhat a tale of science fiction except the reader knows this could be closer to the truth than one would like to believe. The students that go to the boarding school described are taken care of quite well except for the fact that their existence rests on the vitality of their body parts, one could see this as a book relevant to all young adults and teens(and all those in the throws of organ transplants). It is a well crafted text and one I will always remember reading as the moral and ethical dimension are worth the pondering.


Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

By Basia

“How can you ask a world that has come to regard cancer as curable ... to go back to the dark ages? There was no going back. However uncomfortable people were about your existence, their overwhelming concern was that their own children, their spouses, their parents, their friends, did not die from cancer ... heart disease. So for a long time you were kept in the shadows, and people did their best not to think about you. And if they did, they tried to convince themselves you weren’t really like us. That you were less than human. So it didn’t really matter.”

Ah, this little book. Deceptively little. These central characters, they remain so calm and resigned, from the very beginning of their lives, as outlined and traced by Ishiguro’s protagonist and her friends.

It is a horrible truth, what’s in this book, albeit wrapped in a concept that is not yet a reality in our own timeline. Sadly, though, we do live in a timeline where we as a society marginalize certain groups. We write them off. We try so hard to see them as unlike ourselves, and this somehow eases this enforced distinction between “us” and “them.”

When I was 15, I visited Auschwitz. That started me on a many-year journey, where I read everything I could get my hands on relating to the Holocaust. The Nazis. WWII. Most of the 12 million people who died in those camps were also seemingly “resigned” to their fate. I have never stopped wondering whether this was a true resignation, or whether it was a feeling of overwhelming defeat, or something altogether different, or a combination of factors.

It is so very sad, the ideas embraced by Never Let Me Go. They speak so loudly to a reality within which we all exist. The best thing to take away from this novel, I think, is to strengthen our resolve to stand against such false distinctions between people.

We are all the same. We all suffer. We all experience joy. And yes, we all have “souls,” or whatever you choose to call it.

A most wonderfully intriguing and thought-provoking book to end this year with.

Most HIGHLY recommended.