Kazuo Ishiguro Wins the Nobel

The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2017 has been awarded to Kazuo Ishiguro, “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world,” announces the Swedish Academy. Ishiguro is probably best known for his 1989 novel The Remains of the Day, which won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction that year. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and Harold Pinter would adapt the novel for producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory and the 1994 film, starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, would score eight Oscar nominations and a slew of awards from critics’ associations. Ishiguro wrote the original screenplay for Merchant and Ivory’s The White Countess (2005).

Last year, Peter Beech wrote in the Guardian that “The Remains of the Day does that most wonderful thing a work of literature can do: it makes you feel you hold a human life in your hands. . . . It’s about how class conditioning can turn you into your own worst enemy, making you complicit in your own subservience. It’s probably quite an English book—I can’t imagine readers in more gregarious nations will have much patience with a protagonist who takes four decades to fail to declare his feelings. ‘Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way,’ as Pink Floyd sang. It’s a book for anyone who feels they’ve ever held themselves back when something that truly mattered was within their grasp.”

Ishiguro’s 2005 novel Never Let Me Go was adapted by Alex Garland for the 2010 film directed by Mark Romanek and starring Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, and Andrew Garfield. As Manohla Dargis wrote in the New York Times, “this coming-of-age story involves three British friends who are raised with others of their kind in a group home that proves more Orwellian than Dickensian. . . . One of the pleasures of Never Let Me Go, on the page and on screen, comes from the detective work the story requires, whether you’re noting Mr. Ishiguro’s use of verbs like ‘huddle’ and ‘wander,’ or the way that Mr. Romanek groups actors in the image.”

In 2003, Guy Maddin directed Isabella Rossellini in The Saddest Music in the World, based on a story by Ishiguro.

Updates: The London Review of Books gathers snippets from and links to essays by and about Ishiguro that have appeared in its pages over the years.

The Literary Hub has posted a 2005 profile of Ishiguro that appeared in John Freeman’s 2012 book, How to Read a Novelist.

The New Yorker rounds up work by and about Ishiguro that’s appeared in the magazine.

Less than an hour after hearing the news, Ishiguro talks to the BBC’s Will Gompertz (3’02”).

From JSTOR Daily, Charles Thaxton links to two interviews with Ishiguro, Graham Swift’s for BOMB in 1989 and Kenzaburo Oe’s for Grand Street in 1991.

“I greatly admired Ishiguro’s early novels, such as An Artist of the Floating World, from 1986, and The Remains of the Day, from 1989 (the latter seems an almost perfect book),” writes James Wood for the New Yorker. “But The Unconsoled (1995), narrated by a concert pianist and set in an unnamed Central European city, too closely inhabited the miasmic, drifting, dreamlike state it sought to evoke. I thought that The Buried Giant (2015)—apparently admired by at least one member of the Nobel committee—was an allegory at once too literal and too vague. . . . But surely Never Let Me Go (2005), is one of the central novels of our age, in part because Ishiguro perfectly mixes realism and dystopian fantasy to produce an allegory of deep and lingering power. . . . Never Let Me Go is a beautiful and terrifying book because it works so well at different levels: it is a kind of parody of English boarding-school books; it is a critique of certain emergent medical technologies; and, above all, it is a suggestive allegory of how all of us live. For it is our similarity to, not our difference from, the cloned kids of Hailsham that is finally shocking.”

Update, 10/7: “None of his novels is the same as the last, yet he has achieved over the course of his career a remarkable consistency of affect,” writes Dwight Garner in the New York Times. “He creates worlds that are clear in a sentence-by-sentence way, but in which the big picture recedes against the horizon. His novels are about discovery and revelation, and how slowly they arrive even for the most meticulous observer.”

Update, 10/8:Susannah Hunnewell interviewed Ishiguro for the Spring 2008 issue of the Paris Review.

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