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When We Were Orphans

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  23,646 ratings  ·  2,279 reviews
Man Booker Prize Nominee (2000)

England, 1930s. Christopher Banks has become the country's most celebrated detective, his cases the talk of London society. Yet one unsolved crime has always haunted him; the mysterious disappearance of his parents, in Old Shanghai, when he was a small boy. Now, as the world lurches towards total war, Banks realises the time has come for him
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Paperback, 313 pages
Published March 5th 2001 by Faber & Faber (first published 2000)
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Lisa SPOILERS AHEAD!!! I think maybe we're supposed to be pretty annoyed with the narrator. Ishiguro turns the mystery genre on its head here; the narrator…moreSPOILERS AHEAD!!! I think maybe we're supposed to be pretty annoyed with the narrator. Ishiguro turns the mystery genre on its head here; the narrator is blind to so many concerns besides his rather monomaniacal desire to figure out what happened to his parents. Ishiguro seems (to me) to be pointing that in life, many such mysteries, and their pursuit, lead to very little, with answers we would rather not have (thus turn the mystery genre on its head--mysteries tend to satisfy because answers are found; order is restored; a possibility justice might obtain. But not here. Here finding out the answer leads only to sadness). Banks misses out raising his ward; he thoughtlessly and needlessly endangers people in the conflict; he destroys his memories of Akira....all to find out the ends were sad and squalid for both parents, and they were both beyond saving or avenging.
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Community Reviews

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3.48  · 
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 ·  23,646 ratings  ·  2,279 reviews


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William2
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk, fiction, 20-ce
Second reading. Ishiguro's novels are nothing if not enigmatic. There's disorientation; the reader is never quite sure where he stands. When We Were Orphans is a quasi-Bildungsroman or coming of age/detective story. It is set over a period of fifty years or so in London, Shanghai and then back in London again.

Narrator Christopher Banks is born of English parents with whom he lives in the International Concession in Shanghai. Around 1915 or so they disappear, when he is about nine, and are believ
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Sean Barrs the Bookdragon
My favourite Ishiguro!

“On the contrary, it is never too late to, as you put it, pick up the scent”

Indeed, it most certainly isn’t. This book was so, so, deep. I feel like my emotions have been stretched to breaking point when reading. If you’ve not ready any of Ishiguro’s novels before, then don’t be deceived, this is no mere crime novel: this is an exploration of the human soul.

Ishiguro has written such a powerful novel here. In the process of questioning the fleeting nature of the past, t
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Libby
Jan 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thesis-book-list
Many reviews here have commented on Ishiguro's unreliable narrators (let's let that classification stand, whether or not it is entirely valid or really applies to all of his work), as if this aspect of his fiction is so obvious, or that it has been so exhaustively mined, that there is little to nothing left to say about such a narrative strategy.

Christopher Banks, When We Were Orphans' narrator, is certainly unreliable, yes. But our relationship to him as an unreliable narrator is a strange one,
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Ahmad Sharabiani
When We Were Orphans, Kazuo Ishiguro
When We Were Orphans is the fifth novel by Nobel Prize-winning British author Kazuo Ishiguro, published in 2000. Ishiguro himself saying "It's not my best book".
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه آوریل سال 2002 میلادی
عنوان: وقتی یتیم بودیم؛ نویسنده: کازوئو ایشی گورو؛ مترجم: مژده دقیقی؛ تهران، شهر کتاب، هرمس؛ 1381، در 400 ص؛ شابک: 9643630978؛ چاپ دوم 1385؛ چاپ چهارم 1392؛ شابک: 9789643630973؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسی - سده 20 م
مترجم: مجید غلامی شاهدی؛ تهران، نو
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Will Byrnes
A pretty good novel. I thought it was outstanding until the back quarter. Renowned London detective Christopher Banks was raised in the International part of Shanghai, sent to England after both his parents disappeared. He is smitten with a social climbing siren who figures in his adventure when he returns to Shanghai intent on solving the mystery of his parents’ disappearance. Of course the Sino-Japanese war, two decades of change in Shanghai, and a chance to run away with the girl of his dream ...more
Fabian
Nov 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two previous flawless books; expectations were rather high, see. "A Pale View of Hills" is an essential novel to all lovers of books and history and novellas, & "Never Let Me Go" is an instant modern classic (genre splicing done EXACTLY right). This, on the other hand, is B O R I N G...! (This, granted, coming from a genuine fan of all books long & boring.)

A detective's life should certainly include many peaks, scenes of action, excitement aplenty. Kazuo Ishiguro decides to keep all this
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Bec
Jul 12, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
K.D. Absolutely
Nov 28, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Booker Shortlist 2000
This is my 7th Ishiguro and I am happy for two reasons: (1) I am now an Ishiguro completist and (2) unlike a couple of his earlier books, I actually liked this one. I almost rated this with 4 stars but I could not do that because I found the first half of the book unbelievably boring. However, Ishiguro managed to make the book’s last 50-70 pages truly engaging that I thought I was able to squirt some tears from my eyes when the boyhood friends were back together. It was one of the most poignant ...more
Sara
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kazuo Ishiguro’s enigmatic novel, When We Were Orphans, is as complex and baffling a work of fiction as I have ever encountered. Christopher Banks, our narrator, is not so much an unreliable narrator as a naive narrator who believes in the internal world he has created and acts upon it as if it were truth. Through so much of the novel I kept asking myself why he could not see the illogical conclusions he was drawing, but of course that is what this novel is about, his inability to leave his chil ...more
Piyangie
When We Were Orphans made me realize that one can be deceived not only by people but also by books! Honest to God I thought this book was about solving a mystery. The protagonist being a celebrated detective added more fuel to the deception. No wonder I was disoriented by the middle of it trying desperately to understand what the mystery is all about. Well I'm not saying there was no mystery element; of course there is a touch of that, but not the way I expected. So there, I was deceived by a bo ...more
Blair
The first thing I noticed about this book was that the narrative voice - belonging to Christopher Banks, a successful detective in 1930s England - is remarkably similar to that of Stevens, the protagonist of Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day. While at first this drew me in (I loved The Remains of the Day), I soon began to find it offputting. I had assumed Stevens' voice was unique, so it was a bit of a disappointment to find that what I assumed were facets of that character are actually features ...more
Seth T.
Jul 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When We Were Orphans was, for me, a pretty fascinating exploration of the difficulties typical to the lens of overgrown sentimentailty through which one approaches the vaguely remembered past. As the narration continues, one wonders just how ephemerally Christopher Banks, the narrator, holds his grasp on reality. Quite clearly his recollections of the distant past are modified to fit his circumstances and the man he's become—and paradoxically, the man he's become is a debt owed to these remember ...more
عبدالخالق كلاليب
[لكن بالنسبة لأمثالنا, فمصيرنا أن نواجه العالم كيتامى, يطاردون لسنوات طوال ظلال الآباء الغائبين].
هذه العبارة الحزينة ترد في الصفحة الأخيرة من الرواية. ومن الممكن اعتبارها جوهر الرواية والهدف النهائي من كتابتها, فإيشيجورو كتب رواية عن اليتم كمدخل إلى ضياع الهوية والبحث عن الجذور.
رواة كازو إيشيجورو موصومون دائماً بتشوش الذاكرة. هكذا قيل عن روايات إيشيجورو كلها. ولكن الراوي في هذه الرواية يعاني مما هو أكثر من مجرد تشوّش, إنه يعاني, وعلى حد تعبير الراوي نفسه, من تشوه الذاكرة. ذلك التشوه الذي يعيد ت
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Judith
Aug 25, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I listened to audio version of this book and kept thinking I was missing chapters or I had somehow obtained the abridged version because the plot wasn't making any sense. So mid-way through the audio, I got the book and read it, and then started reading it again, NOT because I liked it, but because I have never read such a strangely constructed work of fiction.

I am still at a loss. Was this a satire on British Imperialism? Was it meant to be a fantasy? I kept thinking there was going to be one
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Barry Pierce
Eh, this isn't great. I enjoyed maybe the first 50ish pages but once the plot actually begins it just becomes a mess. It gets the extra star because I enjoyed those 50 pages. Even Ishiguro himself thinks this is a weak novel. It's overall poor.
Matthew Appleton
It took about 200 pages to get out of 3 stars and into 4, but I loved the last 100 pages or so.
Rebecca McNutt
When We Were Orphans is an impressive and unforgettable mystery novel, taking readers on a journey to reunite a man with his missing parent.
Lydia
Nov 18, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
WARNING! SPOILERS
I'm not sure what to say about this book. It read like a well-written parody of a children's detective story, but, for me, ultimately failed to climb high enough above that to let me take it seriously. Since we are never sure how much we can believe our narrator, it is difficult to know how to feel. ANd we are presented with an awful lot of material that can invoke strong feeling.

The very notion that Christopher Banks is searching for his long lost parents so many years later i
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·Karen·
Nov 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brits
This was not my first read, although it was a while before I realised. After muttering grumpily to myself that Ishiguro surely can't have written TWO books in which someone called Christopher returns to Shanghai where his parents had mysteriously disappeared I had to concede that no, it was the selfsame one that I have a vague memory of reading while ill in bed? Perhaps? Or was it not my feverish, hallucinatory state that I remember, but rather the disturbing unreliability of the narrative...

Muc
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Issicratea
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1990-2010, reviewed
I read two very interesting press reviews of When We Were Orphans just after finishing it, by Philip Hensher in The Guardian and Michael Gorra in The New York Times. Hensher’s is critical, judging Orphans to be a relative failure by comparison with The Remains of the Day and The Unconsoled, while Gorra sees it as Ishiguro’s finest achievement up to that point (in 2000.) I think I’m with Hensher in terms of evaluation, but my jury is still slightly out.

Certainly, these three novels are close enou
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Vaso
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Πρώτη απόπειρα να διαβάσω τον φετινό νικητή του Νόμπελ λογοτεχνίας, γι' αυτό και επέλεξα ένα από τα παλαιότερα έργα του. Απόλαυσα τον τρόπο γραφής και την ίδια την ιστορία ιδιαίτερα. Μια ιστορία που μιλά για την παιδική ηλικία, τη λήθη, την αγάπη για την οικογένεια.
مجید اسطیری
این رمان را من سال 87 از ایشی گورو خوندم. به نظرم دو انرژی پیش برنده این اثر "نوستالژی" و "پلیس بازی" هستش. که البته و صد البته من با بخش نوستالژیش خیلی بیشتر حال کردم و به نظرم نویسنده هم بهتر تونسته بود حسش را بسازه و منتقل کنه. یعنی این نویسنده به هر حال جنایی نویس نیست.
بهترین و به یادماندنی ترین فصلش همون فصلی هست که راوی به یاد میاره چطور در دوره کودکیش یکی از اعضای باند تبهکار میاد و خیلی با مهربانی دستش را میگیره تا ببره براش یه هدیه بخره. بچه حس خوبی داره ولی مشکوکه. وسط شلوغی بازار اون
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pegah
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
It could get 4 stars specially for last 50 pages but some parts of book were not believable enough.
Kay
Oct 14, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've been putting off this review for a few weeks, hoping that something inchoate in me would gell, which would make me happier than it being something incoherent in Ishiguro's writing that didn't gell.

Nothing gelled.

I'll try not to write spoilers, although as I have no idea what the denouement of this book is (let alone what it might 'mean') it would be hard difficult for me to know if I did - however, the strands of the story are:

- that the narrator is an expatriate of Shanghai, both of whose
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Hugh
This book is something of a weird trip. At first we are in similar territory to The Remains of the Day, in 1920s London, where we find the narrator as a young man making a name for himself as a detective, who has come to England from Shanghai after his parents disappeared. Then we move to Shanghai in 1937, where things gradually get messier and more surreal and develop into a Kafkaesque thrillerish nightmare set in a war zone as the narrator tries to resolve the story of his parents. This sectio ...more
Ahmed Oraby
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"للأسف، يا بتن، الحقيقة أكثر ابتذالًا"

العم فيليب.


لو أني تخيلت كل السيناريوهات المحتملة لنهاية هذه الرواية، فأستطيع التأكيد على أن هذه النهاية هي الأجمل، والأقل ترجيحًا للحدوث.

تنتمي الرواية لما يسمى بتيار سيل الوعي، وهذا تيار كتبه من قبل دوستويفسكي وجويس وزڤيفو. سيل الوعي يعني الكتابة الاسترسالية الطويلة التي يقوم بها الفرد الراوي بهدف إجلاء مكامن النفس، وهذا هو ما فعله إيشيجورو بشكل ما.


الرواية يمكن اعتبارها أدبًا بوليسيًا، تاريخيًا، عملًا دراميًا، ورواية رومانسية حالمة كتبت بشكل ساخر ومستنكر.

*Sp
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Katie Lumsden
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-stars
A brilliant novel, as good for me as the Remains of the Day. Wonderful characterisation, an interesting historical setting and brilliant writing. I highly recommend!
Ivonne Rovira
Dec 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
English boy Christopher Banks lives in the foreigners’ compound in Shanghai shortly after 1900; what pays for this splendor is Banks’ father’s position with Morganbrook and Byatt, which traffics in opium, which pains Banks’ mother to the point that she joins an anti-opium crusade. When Christopher is just 10 years old, his parents both disappear within weeks of one another.

Were their disappearances due to the corrupt opium business, or to Mrs. Banks’ genteel anti-opium efforts? Young Christophe
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Deanna
May 01, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this an uneven read. Sometimes the drone effect was almost like white noise. It often seemed like it was on the verge of getting good but just wouldn’t let itself get there.

Sometimes there were surprises that worked, though not always. I didn’t find a place of genuinely caring about what happened or a deep love for the writing to make up for that.
Jeff Jackson
May 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
-After the Kafkaesque world of The Unconsoled, Ishiguro's next book finds him retreating to a midway point between that brilliantly disorienting behomoth and the controlled narrative circumlocutions of Remains of the Day.

-In many instances, he successfully harnesses the dislocations and telescoping of the Unconsoled in the service of a plot that's more grounded in so-called reality. In this case, it's a detective story about an Englishman returning to Shanghai, trying to find his parents who di
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Dolors
Maybe not his best work, but reading his prose is always a treat, it's smooth like velvet.
Then, I loved the characters, Mr. Banks, the haunted detective searching for his lost parents in Shangai (he is a bit lost and weak sometimes, okay I admit it), but then, Sarah Hemmings ! Wow, what a heroine, she was really the best, the ambitious woman, the one everybody desires, mysterious, interesting, smart...and a bit sneaky. The perfect character for a gangsterish plot like this one.
Of course, the bo
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Nikki
I keep starting Ishiguro's books not being quite sure about them -- with people telling me that I won't like them for x and y reasons, or with trepidation born from the wide spread of reviews they get. But there's something about Ishiguro's measured, calm prose that always draws me in. It gives a similarity to all his narrators, but it usually works well with the character he chooses to narrate.

(You may consider the rest of this review spoilery, because while I don't reveal major plot twists, I
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Saleh MoonWalker
Onvan : When We Were Orphans - Nevisande : Kazuo Ishiguro - ISBN : 571225403 - ISBN13 : 9780571225408 - Dar 320 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2000
Michela De Bartolo
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Begum Zorlu
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Neil
Mar 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
"My feeling is that she is thinking of herself as much as of me when she talks of a sense of mission, and the futility of attempting to evade it. Perhaps there are those who are able to go about their lives unfettered by such concerns. But for those like us, our fate is to face the world as orphans, chasing through long years the shadows of vanished parents."

What a crazy, crazy book! But quite possibly crazy in a good way. At the start, and for quite a substantial part of the book, you could be
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LindaJ^
We meet the narrator and main character - Christopher Banks - in the opening scene as he is pondering on things that happened in the past. And so goes the whole book. Christopher Banks remembering his past, but not necessarily in chronological order. Christopher rarely remembers things as those around him. He remembers himself in a much better light than others.

Christopher is an orphan who thinks his parents are still alive and are being held in a house in Shanghai. When his parents went missin
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Ana
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c-japan, 4stars, read-2018
Christopher Banks é um rapaz inglês, nascido em Xangai no início do século XX, que aos nove anos perde os pais que desaparecem misteriosamente. É enviado para Inglaterra ao cuidado de familiares e torna-se um detective famoso que almeja encontrar os pais desaparecidos, para o que regressa a Xangai na época em que decorria a guerra sino-japonesa. Este regresso marca uma viragem na actuação de Christopher que se torna errática e bizarra, e no tom da narrativa, que se torna detectivesco mas de uma ...more
Mike
Dec 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful novel set in Shanghai between the world wars. Kind of got lost in the shuffle amidst the acknowledged classic The Remains of the Day, the great psycho monolith The Unconsoled, and the mildly overrated science fiction Never Let Me Go. Ishiguro is the contemporary master of the unreliable narrator and this is his darkest and most relevant novel.
Megan
This is my second book by Kazuo Ishiguro (The first being Never Let Me Go) Once again, I love his writing style and his incredibly complex and flawed characters. In When We Were Orphans, Ishiguro presented a narrator who while reliable, apparently views events and situations (especially those close to him) quite differently than others. The writing and character development are undoubtedly Ishiguro’s strengths in this novel.

Protagonist Christopher Banks is a wonderfully flawed and curious man w
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Darnia
Oct 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia, 2016
3,5/5 bintang

Ishiguro ini, meskipun masuk jajaran pujangga Inggris, namun karyanya masih menyiratkan ciri khas sastra Jepang yg (IMO) ibarat batang pada pohon anggur yg tidak dipangkas. Anggap saja batangnya adalah tema utama, sedangkan daun, sulur, calon buah dan sebagainya yg menghiasi batangnya adalah penjabaran lain yg sedikit banyak terkait dengan tema utama (ini analoginya pas gak sih?). Dua kali gw baca Ishiguro, hal-hal semacam itu selalu terjadi, pun di dalam novel ini.

Batang atau tema
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Biron Paşa
Öksüzlüğümüz, Ishiguro'nun eski tarzlarının bir sentezi. Hem Günden Kalanlar, Değişen Dünyada Bir Sanatçı'daki gibi gerçekçi, hem de Avunamayanlar'daki gibi gerçeküstü, tuhaf.

Roman, dedektif Christopher Banks'in hikâyesini anlatıyor. Banks çocukluğunu babasının işi dolayısıyla yerleştikleri Çin'de geçirirken, ebeveynleri kaçırılıyor. Önce babası ortadan kayboluyor. Ardından da annesi. Bu yüzden de İngiltere'ye, teyzesinin yanına yollanıyor ve İngiltere'de büyüyor.

Banks, İngiltere'de gayet sıra
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Aubrey
3.5/5
Here, in other words, at the heart of the maelstrom threatening to suck in the whole of the civilised world, is a pathetic conspiracy of denial; a denial of responsiblity which as turned in on itself and gone sour, manifesting itself in the sort of pompous defensiveness I have encountered so often.
Endings are horribly difficult. The main plot has twenty loose ends, the wrong people are killed off, no one knows what happened to the huge conspiracy hinted at for the last 200 pages, and what
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Cat
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018
É Ishiguro sim senhor, mas, caramba!, fiquei com a sensação que não percebi grande coisa da história.

Sinceramente, só não dou apenas uma estrela por causa da revelação a caminho do final. De repente um certo acontecimento no passado da nossa personagem fica claro; para mim um dos poucos momentos de leitura em que não estive com vontade de fechar os olhos e dormir uma soneca.

Porque, de resto, esta história é uma valente seca. E não ajuda nada ter o chato e completamente iludido Christopher Banks
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Lo O'Neill
I was really looking forward to reading a Kazuo Ishiguro novel and had planned to start with Never Let me Go but my bookclub decided that our book of the month would be When We Were Orphans so that is where I started. From what I have read this is one of Ishiguro’s weakest novels, so I am still going to give the author another chance even though I would only rate When We Were Orphans as a 2 star book.

When finishing this book I was left with the impression that I need to read it again to re
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12,737 followers
Kazuo Ishiguro (カズオ・イシグロ or 石黒 一雄) is a British novelist of Japanese origin and Nobel Laureate in Literature (2017). His family moved to England in 1960. Ishiguro obtained his Bachelor's degree from the 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. He now lives in London.

His first novel, A Pale
...more
“All I know is that I've wasted all these years looking for something, a sort of trophy I'd get only if I really, really did enough to deserve it. But I don't want it anymore, I want something else now, something warm and sheltering, something I can turn to, regardless of what I do, regardless of who I become. Something that will just be there, always, like tomorrow's sky. That's what I want now, and I think it's what you should want too. But it will be too late soon. We'll become too set to change. If we don't take our chance now, another may never come for either of us.” 343 likes
“Perhaps there are those who are able to go about their lives unfettered by such concerns. But for those like us, our fate is to face the world as orphans, chasing through long years the shadows of vanished parents. There is nothing for it but to try and see through our missions to the end, as best we can, for until we do so, we will be permitted no calm.” 73 likes
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