Kazuo Ishiguro wins the Nobel prize in literature
Poriborton Desk 6:05 pm, October 05, 2017
The English author Kazuo Ishiguro has been named winner of the 2017 Nobel prize in literature, praised by the Swedish Academy for his “novels of great emotional force”, which it said had “uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”, reports The Guardian.
With names including Margaret Atwood, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and Haruki Murakami leading the odds at the bookmakers, Ishiguro was a surprise choice. But his blue-chip literary credentials return the award to more familiar territory after last year’s controversial selection of the singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. The author of novels including The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, Ishiguro’s writing, said the Academy, is “marked by a carefully restrained mode of expression, independent of whatever events are taking place”.
The novelist Salman Rushdie offered his congratulations to his “old friend Ish, whose work I’ve loved and admired ever since I first read A Pale View of Hills. And he plays the guitar and writes songs too! Roll over Bob Dylan.”
Permanent secretary of the academy Sara Danius described Ishiguro’s writing as a mix of the works of Jane Austen and Franz Kafka, “but you have to add a little bit of Marcel Proust into the mix, and then you stir, but not too much, and then you have his writings.
“He’s a writer of great integrity. He doesn’t look to the side, he’s developed an aesthetic universe all his own,” she said. Danius named her favourite of Ishiguro’s novels as The Buried Giant, but called The Remains of the Day “a true masterpiece [which] starts as a PG Wodehouse novel and ends as something Kafkaesque”.
“He is someone who is very interested in understanding the past, but he is not a Proustian writer, he is not out to redeem the past, he is exploring what you have to forget in order to survive in the first place as an individual or as a society,” she said, adding – in the wake of last year’s uproar – that she hoped the choice would “make the world happy”.
“That’s not for me to judge. We’ve just chosen what we think is an absolutely brilliant novelist,” she said.
Born in Japan, Ishiguro’s family moved to the UK when he was five. He studied creative writing at the University of East Anglia, going on to publish his first novel, A Pale View of the Hills, in 1982. He has been a full time writer ever since. The Swedish Academy said that he is most associated in his writing with the themes of “memory, time and self-delusion”, particularly in The Remains of the Day, the 1989 novel for which he is perhaps best known, which was adapted for film starring Anthony Hopkins as the “duty-obsessed” butler Stevens.
His more recent novels have taken a turn for the fantastical: Never Let Me Go is set in a dystopic version of England, while The Buried Giant, published two years ago, sees an elderly couple on a road trip through a strange and otherworldly English landscape. “This novel explores, in a moving manner, how memory relates to oblivion, history to the present, and fantasy to reality,” said the Swedish Academy. Apart from his eight books, which include the short story collection Nocturnes, Ishiguro has written scripts for film and television.
Awarded since 1901, the 9m Swedish krona (£832,000) Nobel prize is for the writing of an author who, in the words of Alfred Nobel’s bequest, “shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. Ishiguro becomes the 114th winner, following in the footsteps of writers including Seamus Heaney, Toni Morrison, Mo Yan and Pablo Neruda.
The award is judged by the secretive members of the Swedish Academy, who last year plumped for the American musician Dylan “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. He proved an elusive winner and was described as “impolite and arrogant” by academy member Per Wastberg after initially failing to acknowledge the honour.
Some members of the literary community were also less than impressed: “This feels like the lamest Nobel win since they gave it to Obama for not being Bush,” said Hari Kunzru at the time. The choice of a writer who has won awards including the Man Booker prize should pour oil on at least some of the troubled waters ruffled by Dylan’s win.
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