Kazuo Ishig­uro: a wor­thy No­bel win­ner

The Week - - Talking Points News -

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”.

Ishig­uro: a voice of san­ity

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