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Presenting the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature Laureate: Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro wins 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature for his insightful works.

Isabella Zhou, Features Writer

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On October 5, 2017, the Swedish Academy announced the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded annually to those who have provided “the greatest benefit to mankind”. In other words, the prize is given to a writer who has made a monumental difference in the world through his or her literature. To the sadness of Harukists it is, again, not Haruki Murakami, one of the world’s most renowned writers and arguably Japan’s favorite novelist. Considering this, every year his name is brought up as a potential winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The actual winner this year is Kazuo Ishiguro, a Japanese-born British novelist. Although, he is perhaps the most acclaimed British novelist of this era, his win came as a slight surprise, both to him, his fans, and the Japanese bookstore that had to immediately take down its displays of Murakami’s work. After all, Ishiguro’s name did not even make New Republic’s prediction of those most likely to win the highly coveted prize.

Of course, that does not mean you should not check out Ishiguro’s reserved writing style and his fascinatingly written characters. Although his style causes readers to actively have to deduce what exactly is happening, the process is undoubtedly very rewarding.

Born in Nagasaki, Japan on November 8, 1954, Ishiguro soon migrated with his family to England so that his father could move with the National Institute of Oceanography. When he was younger Ishiguro first made an attempt at the music industry, writing songs and playing at folk clubs. Even though Ishiguro never became well known in the music industry, according to him, “That was all very good preparation for the kind of fiction I went on to write.”

Since his first book, A Pale View of Hills, was published in 1982, Ishiguro has continued to develop his writing career. His works are known for being quaintly reserved, often leaving readers to read between the lines to understand the full meaning behind his work. Frequently, Ishiguro utilizes unreliable narrators and first person points of view. His characters have often had to live through traumatic events, such as World War I and II. By writing his characters in this fashion, he successfully explores themes involving human struggle and psychology by delving into the minds of his characters.

Unlike many other authors, Ishiguro prefers to make his characters quite different from himself. Ishiguro claims that it is easier to write in this manner because it allows him to think more about why a character acts a certain way. By writing in this style, he finds that there is no need to include unnecessary details simply to forcibly relate himself to that particular character.

Ishiguro’s first novels can mostly be classified as historical fiction. However, his most recent works introduce a whimsical dystopian quality to his writing. Even the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, commented that “if you mix Jane Austen and Franz Kafka then you have Kazuo Ishiguro in a nutshell, but you have to add a little bit of Marcel Proust into the mix.”

Interestingly, Ishiguro does not consider himself to be a Japanese author. He humorously believes that “if I wrote under a pseudonym and got somebody else to pose for my jacket photographs, I’m sure nobody would think of saying, ‘This guy reminds me of that Japanese writer.'”

Yet his background of being born in Japan but raised in England has definitely had an effect on his writing. His books often take place in both England and Japan. Ishiguro states that “although I’ve grown up in this country (Britain)… that a large part of my way of looking at the world, my artistic approach, is Japanese, because I was brought up by Japanese parents, speaking in Japanese.”

Ishiguro’s novels include the following: A Pale View of the Hills, The Remains of the Day, and Never Let Me Go. He has also written a variety of short stories and screenplays. With their distinct style and tone, all of Ishiguro’s works are worth checking out for their insightful musings about human nature.   

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Presenting the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature Laureate: Kazuo Ishiguro