Kazuo Ishiguro: a worthy Nobel winner
Last year, the decision to award the Nobel Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan was greeted with some scepticism, said Dwight Garner in The New York Times. This year’s winner, Kazuo Ishiguro, will not inspire “that sort of bickering”. Ishiguro “is a safe choice – he has been a blue-chip literary stock for nearly four decades – but a formidable and not uninteresting one”. Born in Nagasaki, Ishiguro moved to Guildford at the age of five and was raised in England; “many of his characters are caught, in different ways, between worlds”. He is still best known for his third novel The Remains of the Day (1989), told from the perspective of Stevens, a “punctilious English butler”. Yet he has achieved a “remarkable consistency” during his long and notably varied career as a writer.
“It’s not just that he has a different idea each time,” said Duncan White in The Sunday Telegraph: it’s that each new novel could have been written by “a completely different person”. Ishiguro “slips convincingly between genres”, from “the intricate perfection of the earlier historical novels, to the surreal Kafkaesque sprawl” of The Unconsoled (1995), about a pianist arriving in an unnamed European city for a concert he cannot remember agreeing to give. His biggest recent success was the dystopian science fiction of Never Let Me Go (2005) – set in a boarding school for children cloned so their organs can be harvested. His last novel, The Buried Giant (2015), was a “post-arthurian fantasy replete with dragons, ogres and sprites”. Yet there’s also a thematic unity in his work, said Lorien Kite in the FT. The Second World War looms large in his novels. As the Nobel committee put it, he is interested in the themes of “memory, time and self-delusion”.
Ishiguro has “supremely done his own kind of thing”, said James Wood in The New Yorker – “calmly undeterred by literary fashion, the demands of the market, or the intermittent incomprehension of critics”. He is also “that rare being, an artist without ego”, said Robert Mccrum in The Observer, famous for his kindness and good humour. “In a frantic, fretful and unstable world,” Ishiguro is “a voice of sanity, decorum, humanity and grace”.