Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro (カズオ・イシグロ Kazuo Ishiguro, originally 石黒一雄 Ishiguro Kazuo, born November 8, 1954) is a Japanese-born British author. He was born in Nagasaki, Japan, and his family moved to England in 1960, when he was aged five. Ishiguro obtained his Bachelor's degree from University of Kent in 1978 and his Masters from the University of East Anglia in 1980. He now lives in London.

He won the Whitbread Prize in 1986 for his novel An Artist of the Floating World, and he won the Booker Prize in 1989 for his novel, The Remains of the Day (ISBN 0679731725).

His other novels include A Pale View of Hills, The Unconsoled, When We Were Orphans, and his most recent book Never Let Me Go.

Literary Characteristics

The literary characteristics of Ishiguro's work are almost unique in the accepted canon of English literature and technique. This is largely due to the mixed chronology of the plot, to the extreme subjectivity of the narration, and to the delicate and historically accurate descriptions that accompany the narration.

Most of Kazuo Ishiguro's novels are semi-historical works. There are, however, two exceptions: his latest novel, Never Let Me Go, which is semi-science fictional; and his fourth novel, The Unconsoled, which simply takes place in an ambiguous central European state. His novel The Remains of the Day takes place within a large country home of an aristocratic lord, during the period immediately after the First World War and to the final period before the outbreak of the Second. The quality of the research is superlative; not only are dates and events recorded accurately, but the psychological atmosphere is represented with skill rarely approached in historical fiction.

Another novel An Artist of the Floating World is set in the author's home town Nagasaki, Japan, during the post-war period of reconstruction following the detonation of the atomic bomb. This is narrated by Ono, who in the book is forced to come to terms with his own part in the Second World War. He finds himself partially blamed by the new generation for the misguided Japanese foreign policy, and is forced to confront the modernisation represented by his grandson, Ichiro.

The novels are written in the first person, and Ishiguro permits his choice of narrator to carry all the bias common to human beings. Often his characters refuse to face realities of which the reader is made aware by the behaviour if not the thoughts of the individual character. For example, in The Remains of the Day, Stevens - a butler - struggles to reconcile himself between the call of duty, and the allure of romance.

In the process of writing, Ishiguro makes full use of real historical people. Lord Darlington, the employer of the hero of The Remains of the Day, was an actual figure of prominence in England prior to the Second World War, as were many of the other dignitaries appearing as characters in the novel.

His novels end with a paradox. The issues his characters confront are buried in the past, and the problems those issues have caused cannot be resolved. Thus Ishiguro ends many of his novels with an atmosphere of depressing resignation, whereby the characters accept what has happened, and who they have become, and find in that realisation a relief from mental anguish.


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