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Kazuo Ishiguro
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message 1: by Trevor (last edited Mar 03, 2021 08:19AM) (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1842 comments Mod
Kazuo Ishiguro (November 8, 1954 - )

Ishiguro is a British novelist (with some short stories and screenplays to his credit). He won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature.

- A Pale View of Hills (1982)
- An Artist of the Floating World (1986)
- The Remains of the Day (1989)
- The Unconsoled (1995)
- When We Were Orphans (2000)
- Never Let Me Go (2005)
- Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall (2009)
- The Buried Giant (2015)
- Klara and the Sun (2021)

message 2: by Paul (last edited Oct 06, 2017 12:17PM) (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8774 comments The completist in me is now making me check out his short stories cited by the Nobel Committee:

They are:

"A Strange and Sometimes Sadness”, ”Waiting for J.” and ”Getting Poisoned” in Introduction Seven: Stories by New Writers, 1981

unfortunately only on sale for 86 pounds!

A Family Supper in Firebird 2: Writing Today, 1983
Google digs up copies of this story

Summer after the War in Granta, 1983
Freely available at:
This was an early version of An Artist of the Floating World albeit told from the grandson's perspective rather than that of the artist. This was also part of Granta's wonderfully prescient 1983 Best of Young British Novelists (a list that also included Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes, Pat Barker, Martin Amis, William Boyd, Rose Tremain, Salman Rushdie, Graham Swift etc)

October 1948 in Granta, 1985

But this is actually purely an extract from
An Artist of the Floating World

A Village After Dark in The New Yorker, 2001
Freely available at:
Essentially written as practice for writing The Unconsoled

message 3: by Paul (last edited Oct 05, 2017 09:00AM) (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8774 comments And this Guardian article is a great introduction - in his own words - as to the start of his career as a novelist.

message 4: by Trevor (last edited Oct 05, 2017 08:51AM) (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1842 comments Mod
I have not read two of his books, An Artist of the Floating World and Nocturnes. However, I've read the rest and plan on catching up and keeping up.

If you'd asked me in 2004 who my favorite novelist was, I may have said Kazuo Ishiguro. I'm afraid that, as much as I admired it, I didn't really like Never Let Me Go. Or, rather, and I think this is key, I didn't like it as much as I felt I should. It certainly met my expectations for what an Ishiguro novel was -- subtle, evocative, internal -- so it may have simply been a bit of a grumpy or snobby me back in 2006 when I sat down to read it.

As for The Buried Giant, I was so excited by this book. Again, perhaps it was my own misplaced expectations that failed me. A line from my review:

For me, the book suffers from the strange and seemingly contradictory condition of being at once too vague and too controlled or calculated. As is common in a tale of a long journey, there are many encounters with the geography and with the other living creatures who dwell on the path. For me — and again I want to remark that I am in the minority it seems — many of these encounters were cut short (even the ones that ran too long) because they looked down a pathway and then turned away.

With both Never Let Me Go and The Buried Giant, I felt Ishiguro's core strength -- subtlety -- was extremely calculated, and that I'd discovered the formula.

Again, from my review of The Buried Giant:

I have admired this in the past as I think he does it exceptionally well in most of his books. But I struck a turning point with Never Let Me Go. In that book, the “subtle” clues started yelling from the page: There’s more to this story and here is your clue!! Many authors use a process of slow revelation, but in Never Let Me Go and now in The Buried Giant, the mechanics of that process have become more apparent, subtlety becomes its opposite. In The Buried Giant, it felt even worse. Here these notes of foreshadowing (or revelations to the past) seem to have become a crutch, allowing Ishiguro to ignore other — vital — methods of narrative and thematic development.

But, all that said, I'm almost not surprised that I have a major urge to go back and reread these. Not just to see if I missed something. But because I still remember these worlds very well, and I love the idea of returning to them. I feel I will certainly get more out of them this time when I'm not distracted by trying to out-think -- like an idiot -- the book's mechanics.

But I also want to go back and reread all of his novels and finally read that collection of stories. I'm a big fan. I cannot help getting excited, even if it's been nearly 15 years since I was last fully captivated by his work.

I do have this also in my review:

[F]or my money Ishiguro wrote two of the great novels of the late twentieth century — The Remains of the Day and The Unconsoled — and I’m a great admirer of When We Were Orphans, the novel Ishiguro published in 2000. I’ll read Ishiguro’s novels until he’s done.


In the meantime, if I want a book that looks at repressed emotions and the shame associated with the past, Ishiguro has given me better, and those books are so strong I can’t wait to read what he writes next.

message 5: by Robert (new)

Robert | 1995 comments I think Ishiguro is a fantastic author. I do like the fact that all his books have the same theme, which is basically, the importance of memory and manages to take that theme and dress it up differently every single time - An artist focused on a bohemian community, Never let me go is sci-fi/dystopian, The Unconsoled is a surreal Kafkaesque situation etc etc.

Not to mention his writing style! it's minimal, subtle, crisp and yet manages to pack a punch.

Well deserved.

Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5421 comments In some ways the author who Ishiguro most reminds me of is China Mieville. Mieville has very explicitly said his ideal is to write a book which borrows from every different literary genre possible and I see a lot of that in Ishiguro's work (science fiction, Tolkien fantasy, detective novel etc).

Suspect this is a minority view though.

message 7: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 4882 comments Never Let Me Go was a very good book, but will likely be my least favorite of Ishiguro after I read the few I have not yet read for the same reason Blindness is my least favorite Saramago book-I don't like dystopian books.

message 8: by Paul (last edited Mar 06, 2021 02:26PM) (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8774 comments My thoughts on the novels

A Pale View of Hills - a very striking debut and still one of my favourite books.

Most notably for the 'hang on - did I read that right' subtle twist in the closing paragraphs, one Ishiguro himself admits was perhaps a youthful creative-writing graduate feature he wouldn't include today.

I’m very fond of it, but I do think it’s too baffling. The ending is almost like a puzzle. I see nothing artistically to be gained by puzzling people to that extent. That was just inexperience—misjudging what is too obvious and what is subtle
(from The Paris Review)

I will put this in a spoiler alert as not everyone will have read the book.

(view spoiler)

message 9: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8774 comments An Artist of the Floating World

As mentioned above, the short story provides an excellent taster, albeit the novel is much more developed

In many ways similar to A Pale View of Hills, but here the archetypal conflicted Ishiguro narrator is more fully formed: proud and yet guilty of his past, confident and also confused, withholding information and also unaware of what the reader can see, gentle but harsh, artistic but nationalistic, modest and delusionally proud.

All summed up to me in this beautiful line that can be read either way:

It may be that if I chose to put it to the test, I would again be surprised by the extent of my influence. As I say, I have never had a keen awareness of my own standing.

message 10: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8774 comments The Remains of the Day

The novel (film?) for which he is best known. I was lucky enough to hear Ishiguro reading from and talking about the book a couple of years ago on the 25th anniversary of its Booker win.

He admitted it is quite conciously a re-working of Artist of the Floating World, set in Britain rather than Japan. His common theme in both novels, was to explore how well meaning people, doing their best in their own small area, can end up actually contributing to a wider evil.

He also remarked that the very restrained narrative voice in his first two novels was simply his natural style, not a deliberate attempt to portray emotional repression: but when reviewers picked up on what they assumed was deliberate, Ishiguro decided to adopt and exaggerate the effect in the character of Stevens in Remains of the Day.

The novel is also very funny - I had forgotten how much so, until a 2nd reading, such as Stevens attempts to engage in 'banter'

When his employer, Mr Farraday, complains of a "crowing" that woke him up, which Stevens, but not Farraday, knows was caused by some itinerant gypsies, he, after thinking hard for a witty response, "banters" back:

"More like swallows than crows, I would have said, sir. From the migratory aspect'. And I followed this with a suitably modest smile to indicate without ambiguity that I had made a witticism since I did not wish Mr Farraday to restrain any sponteneous mirth he felt out of a misplaced respectfulness."

My review:

message 11: by Paul (last edited Oct 09, 2017 12:51AM) (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8774 comments The Unconsoled

His masterpiece.

Ishiguro's first three novels were variations on a theme, and Remains of the Day perfected the form.

By the time I started The Remains of the Day, I realized that the essence of what I wanted to write was moveable.
I think that’s very particular to you. It shows a certain chameleon-like ability.
I don’t think it is that chameleon-like. What I’m saying is I’ve written the same book three times. I just somehow got away with it.

Paris Review

So it should have been unsurprising that he went in a different direction with The Unconsoled, but equally unsurprising that fans and even esteemed and previously favourable critics were left bemused.

Whereas in the Remains of the Day, the reader gradually became aware of what Stevens was not (his master's Nazi-appeasing past, Stevens inability to see that someone was in love with him), in The Unconsoled we are as, if not more, baffled as to what Ryder is experiencing, and it defies realist conventions. Ishiguro instead uses the 'grammar of dreams.'

Again for a flavour of sorts read the New Yorker story

message 12: by Ctb (new)

Ctb | 197 comments Paul said: "His common theme in both novels, was to explore how well meaning people, doing their best in their own small area, can end up actually contributing to a wider evil."

Yes! Yet so many reviews and critiques focus on other, more trivial themes in The Remains of the Day. This one is IT. The Pith.

message 13: by Paul (last edited Mar 06, 2021 02:24PM) (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8774 comments Ctb wrote: "Paul said: "His common theme in both novels, was to explore how well meaning people, doing their best in their own small area, can end up actually contributing to a wider evil."

Yes! Yet so many r..."

I have to say I took that from the horse's (well the author's) mouth, not my own insight!

message 14: by Paul (last edited Oct 09, 2017 12:52AM) (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8774 comments Gumble's Yard wrote: "In some ways the author who Ishiguro most reminds me of is China Mieville. Mieville has very explicitly said his ideal is to write a book which borrows from every different literary genre possible and I see a lot of that in Ishiguro's work (science fiction, Tolkien fantasy, detective novel etc). "

Just to add to my stream of thoughts on the novels.

Having baffled most critics/fans with The Unconsoled, Ishiguro then took another controversial turn in his work, which Gumble's Yard pinpoints.

Most of his remaining novels to the present day draw from different genres:

When We Were Orphans - historical detective fiction

Never Let Me Go - dystopian

The Buried Giant - Tolkenish fantasy

Taking The Buried Giant as an example - the book that the Nobel committee chair hailed as her favourite - many literary critics criticised it for being too genre (dragons in a novel that won the literary prize) and genre fans on the grounds that there are much better dungeons and dragons type novels (e.g. the back story isn't developed a la Tolkein or Martin).

It felt both rather missed the point. Ishiguro has no snobbishness about genre but equally doesn't feel bound by the constaints. And the rather fantastical settings of Never Let Me Go or The Buried Giant enable him to make his general point without it becoming a book about the specifics of the setting. So with The Buried Giant originally he had toyed with setting it in post-Vichy France or post-Tito Yugoslavia, but that would have been too specific.

If I were to write about France, though, it becomes a book about France. I imagined myself having to face all these experts on Vichy France asking me, So what are you saying about France? What are you accusing us of? And I’d have to say, Actually, it was just supposed to stand for this bigger theme. Another option was the Star Wars strategy: “in a galaxy far, far away.” Never Let Me Go went in that direction, and that has its own challenges. So for a long time, I had this problem.

A possible solution was to set the novel in Britain in 450 A.D. when the Romans left and the Anglo-Saxons took over, which led to the annihilation of the Celts. Nobody knows what the hell happened to the Celts. They just disappeared. It was either genocide or assimilation. I figured that the further you go back in time, the more likely the story would be read metaphorically.

Paris Review

This conversation between Ishiguro and Neil Gaiman is worth reading

My review of The Buried Giant:

message 15: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 567 comments Thanks Paul, Trevor, and others for this excellent insight on Ishiguro's work. Very interesting. I've read Buried Giant, Never Let Me Go, and Remains of the Day. Now I feel the need to read to at least read The Unconsoled. Good pick by the Nobel Committee.

message 16: by Hugh (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3166 comments Mod
The Unconsoled may well be his masterpiece but it is very hard work to read. I thought it was a little derivative of Kafka...

message 17: by Ctb (new)

Ctb | 197 comments Paul, I understood you were paraphrasing Ishiguro; I was just glad you were promulgating it.

As for Never Let Me Go, if only I could have discovered for myself what lies beneath the resigned, hollow, detached tone myself, but skimming even one review beforehand spoils the full experience.

message 18: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8774 comments Yes agreed on Never Let Me Go.

message 19: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8774 comments Nobel lecture published

Nice overview of some of the key moments in his writing life, which he summarises as....

Important turning points in a writer's career – perhaps in many kinds of career – are like these. Often, they are small, scruffy moments. They are quiet, private sparks of revelation. They don't come often, and when they do, they may well come without fanfare, unendorsed by mentors or colleagues. They must often compete for attention with louder, seemingly more urgent demands. Sometimes what they reveal may go against the grain of prevailing wisdom. But when they come, it's important to be able to recognise them for what they are. Or they'll slip through your hands.

I've been emphasising here the small and the private, because essentially that's what my work is about. One person writing in a quiet room, trying to connect with another person, reading in another quiet – or maybe not so quiet – room. Stories can entertain, sometimes teach or argue a point. But for me the essential thing is that they communicate feelings. That they appeal to what we share as human beings across our borders and divides. There are large glamorous industries around stories; the book industry, the movie industry, the television industry, the theatre industry. But in the end, stories are about one person saying to another: This is the way it feels to me. Can you understand what I'm saying? Does it also feel this way to you?

and the conclusion

Firstly, we must widen our common literary world to include many more voices from beyond our comfort zones of the elite first world cultures. We must search more energetically to discover the gems from what remain today unknown literary cultures, whether the writers live in far away countries or within our own communities. Second: we must take great care not to set too narrowly or conservatively our definitions of what constitutes good literature. The next generation will come with all sorts of new, sometimes bewildering ways to tell important and wonderful stories. We must keep our minds open to them, especially regarding genre and form, so that we can nurture and celebrate the best of them. In a time of dangerously increasing division, we must listen. Good writing and good reading will break down barriers. We may even find a new idea, a great humane vision, around which to rally.

message 20: by Dan (new)

Dan A fascinating 1995 review of The Unconsoled by Anita Brookner in The Spectator in which she glowingly name-checks Rachel Cusk's earlier review.

message 21: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8774 comments Can't find the Cusk review but in 1996 she did say when acknowledging her influences....

"Psychological drama is very hard, because it isn't necessarily visual. I was influenced by Ishiguro's novel The Unconsoled, because I realised there are alternatives to this action-driven direction. Ishiguro used dreams as a way of telling a story. To me, that's a brilliant innovation. I think it's a very under- rated book, and it will be seen as very important, because that's the way now to discuss people's anxieties."

message 22: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8774 comments Now officially: Sir Kazuo Ishiguro

Tim Waterstone of the eponymous booksellers also knighted.

message 23: by Cordelia (new)

Cordelia (anne21) | 110 comments Paul wrote: "Now officially: Sir Kazuo Ishiguro

Tim Waterstone of the eponymous booksellers also knighted."

Isn't that nice

message 24: by Lia (new)

Lia it’s official that he now lives In the realm of the pixies and dragons

message 25: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 4882 comments What I wouldn’t give to live in a real realm of pixies and dragons. If only I liked the fantasy genre.

I’m very happy for Ishiguro. He’s a genius and if the Nobel for Literature loses some prestige at least it’s last winner was a truly exceptional author.

message 26: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8774 comments As mentioned on Booker thread, Sir Ishy has a new novel due out in March 2021, Klara and the Sun

message 27: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 4882 comments WooHoo!!

message 28: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) | 1018 comments Mod
Paul wrote: "Can't find the Cusk review but in 1996 she did say when acknowledging her influences....

"Psychological drama is very hard, because it isn't necessarily visual. I was influenced by Ishiguro's nove..."

I have a super soft spot for Mr Ishiguro, so this is terrific news.

message 29: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments Interesting to see promotional emails about this book so early. I guess that means he's hit the heights in promotional terms of Mantel, Atwood, and Rowling.

message 30: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 4882 comments If the book is written why are they waiting a year to publish and release it? Timing for a prize, maybe?

message 31: by Robert (new)

Robert | 1995 comments As someone who has worked in the music industry there’s a whole process to a release:

Generate hype
Although ishiguro is powerhouse there could be other big releases happening between now and March
Since Ishiguro is a powerhouse the date is to warn other publishers not to publish certain books on that date because it will mean loss of sales
As you said - prize season eligibility

message 32: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 4882 comments Those all make sense, thanks, Robert.

message 33: by Robert (new)

Robert | 1995 comments No problem oh and releases are timed according to spending habits. March is the month where people get pay bonuses. You couldn’t release a book In January because people are still broke from Christmas spending

message 34: by Paul (last edited Sep 09, 2020 06:35AM) (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8774 comments Cover reveal today....

which ... uummm ... I'm not sure quite needs to be a thing, particularly when the cover is relatively plain

If the tension of waiting for the reveal on the video is too much Amazon has already been updated so click here: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.c...

message 35: by Bryn (new)

Bryn Lerud | 26 comments Actually that cover reveal made me very happy! I’m in Oregon under smoky skies right now. Worried about fires. I’ve only read a little Ishiguro - Norwegian Wood, which I loved and a book of short stories also amazing. I’m looking forward to reading more soon.

Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5421 comments Wasn’t that Murakami?

message 37: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8774 comments The reveal a few weeks back there was a new book made me very happy - one of my absolute favourite authors (and very nice when I've spoken to him briefly in person as well).

I just wasn't quite sure what seeing the cover did for me - but then I have to say book covers pass me by completely anyway.

message 38: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments Bryn wrote: "Actually that cover reveal made me very happy! I’m in Oregon under smoky skies right now. Worried about fires."

That is very worrying and across so many states at the moment. I saw on a friend's Facebook yesterday re: Denver that they were expecting snow already - bad for her garden but not bad for the forest fires.

message 39: by Bryn (new)

Bryn Lerud | 26 comments Oh dear the smoke is making me confused. Yes Ishiguro. My favorite is one people don’t talk about much. When We Were Orphans. Shanghai.

message 40: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8774 comments I loved that one as well - and the first in his shift to borrowing elements of genre

message 41: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 4882 comments This is good news! I love Ishiguro. Maybe between now and then I’ll read the few books of his I haven’t yet read.

Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5421 comments Some notes on the launch interview Ishiguro did for his book this evening (including some notes on his other books)

message 43: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 4882 comments Thank you for that, Gumble. Were you in the audience?

I want to write to Mr. Ishiguro and tell him that fiction is still critically important, maybe more than ever, and that it definitely deserves to be included in Nobel awards!
How else do human beings, mere mortals, get to inhabit the life of the other? What other art form shows us as clearly what it is to be someone of a different race, religion, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, etc., and allows us to contemplate these other lives in safe space where we can sit with our thoughts without having to choose sides, justify our feelings or explain ourselves?

Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5421 comments Yes (along with 3600 others).

message 45: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 4882 comments On-line meeting?

Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5421 comments Of course - inside meetings here are banned completely.

message 47: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 4882 comments Thats good. I saw that some states here have ended all covid precautions.

I know it’s a sign of privilege, but since January 21 I have stopped watching and reading the news, so I don’t really know what’s going on here or there.

message 48: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) | 1018 comments Mod
Thanks for that synopsis, GY - what an interesting question there at the end, between nonfiction and fiction. I do think, however, that fiction: stated as such (often literal;y on the book jacket and the section of the store in which we find the book) is not on the same level with the "I feel it, so it's a fact for me" type of denialism and conspiracy theories. Whether the emotional truths of fiction prime us for more of that, maybe - I've honestly never thought about it before just now, so I have no idea. But it's a fascinating question.

I was about to write something snarky about not many people reading, then I was reminded of a search for a movie to watch with my mom a few nights ago: one or both of us had read the book of almost every movie and series that looked interesting. So I suppose fiction is everything from comics to tv series and movies, including of course, books.

That said, I feel like historically people have coped with the distinction between fiction and reality or a fact-based scientific approach. I think there are lots of other places to place blame before we start saying fiction is either useless or harmful. If for no other reason that I desperately need some form of fiction to escape reality every now and again. But wow - it's quite a question, no?

Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5421 comments Yes I thought it was a thoughtful point he was making - unfortunately its depth seemed to rather pass the interviewer by - she kept saying "oh but you must keep writing we all love your books, and we love being able to imagine and feel things" and so on without engaging on his point or even really acknowledging he was being serious.

Another thing I forgot from my write up - he says he has always wanted to write a novel about someone hitchhiking through central England but is still looking for a theme for which he can use the vehicle.

message 50: by Derek (new)

Derek Wiltshire (derekwilt) | 54 comments Really looking forward to reading his new novel. I've never been able to get on with his previous books but Klara and the Son sounds like it's right up my street. Fingers crossed.

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