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Kazuo Ishiguro OBE ( (Kazuo Ishiguro) or (Ishiguro Kazuo); born November 8, 1954) is a Britishmarker novelist. He was born in Nagasaki, Japanmarker, and his family moved to Englandmarker in 1960. Ishiguro obtained his Bachelor's degree from University of Kentmarker in 1978 and his Master's from the University of East Angliamarker's creative writing course in 1980. He became a British citizen in 1982.

Early life

Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki on 8 November, 1954, the son of Shigeo Ishiguro, an oceanographer, and his wife Shizuko. In 1960 his family, including his two sisters, moved to Guildfordmarker, Surreymarker so that his father could work on oil development in the North Sea. He attended Stoughton Primary School and then Woking County Grammar School in Surrey. After finishing school he took a 'gap year' and travelled through America and Canada, whilst writing a journal and sending demo tapes to record companies.

In 1974 he began studies at the University of Kentmarker, Canterburymarker, and he graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor of Arts (honours) in English and Philosophy. After spending a year writing fiction, he resumed his studies at the University of East Angliamarker where he gained a Master of Arts in Creative Writing.

He co-wrote four of the songs on jazz singer Stacey Kent's 2007 "Breakfast On the Morning Tram" album. He also wrote the liner notes to Kent's 2003 album, In Love Again. He now lives in Londonmarker with his wife Lorna MacDougall and daughter Naomi.

Literary characteristics

A number of his novels are set in the past. His most recent, Never Let Me Go, had science fiction qualities and a futuristic tone; however, the given time period is the late 1990s, and thus takes place in an alternate, though very similar, world. His fourth novel, The Unconsoled, takes place in an unnamed Central European city. The Remains of the Day is set in the large country house of an English lord, in the period leading up to and after World War II.

An Artist of the Floating World is set in Ishiguro's home town of Nagasaki during the period of reconstruction following the detonation of the atomic bomb in 1945. The narrator is forced to come to terms with his part in World War II. He finds himself blamed by the new generation who accuse him of being part of Japan's misguided foreign policy, and is forced to confront the ideals of the modern times as represented in his grandson.

The novels are written in the first-person narrative style and the narrators often exhibit human failings. Ishiguro's technique is to allow these characters to reveal their flaws implicitly during the narrative. The author thus creates a sense of pathos by allowing the reader to see the narrator's flaws while being drawn into sympathy with him. That pathos is often derived from the narrator's actions, or, more often, inaction. In The Remains of the Day, the butler Stevens fails to act on his romantic feelings toward the housekeeper Miss Kenton because he cannot reconcile his sense of service with his personal life.

The novels end without any sense of resolution. The issues his characters confront are buried in the past and those issues remain unresolved. Thus Ishiguro ends many of his novels on a note of melancholic resignation. His characters accept their past and who they have become, and find that this realization brings comfort and surcease from mental anguish. This can be seen as a literary reflection on the Japanese idea of mono no aware.

Ishiguro and Japan

Ishiguro was born in Japan and has a Japanese name (the characters in the surname Ishiguro mean 'rock' and 'black' respectively). He set his first two novels in Japan; however, in several interviews he has had to clarify to the reading audience that he has little familiarity with Japanese writing and that his works bear little resemblance to Japanese fiction. In a 1990 interview he said, "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.'" Although some Japanese writers have had a distant influence on his writing — Jun'ichirō Tanizaki is the one he most frequently-cited names — Ishiguro has said that Japanese films, especially those of Yasujirō Ozu and Mikio Naruse, have been a more significant influence.

Ishiguro left Japan in 1960 at the age of 5 and did not return until 1989, nearly 30 years later, as a participant in the Japan Foundation Short-Term Visitors Program. In an interview with Kenzaburo Oe, Ishiguro acknowledged that the Japanese setting of his first two novels was "imaginary": "I grew up with a very strong image in my head of this other country, a very important other country to which I had a strong emotional tie... in England I was all the time building up this picture in my head, an imaginary Japan."

Literary prizes

He was featured in the first two Granta Best of Young British Novelists: 1983 and 1993. He won the Whitbread Prize in 1986 for his second novel, An Artist of the Floating World. He won the Booker Prize in 1989 for his third novel, The Remains of the Day. An Artist of the Floating World, When We Were Orphans and his most recent novel, Never Let Me Go, were all short-listed for the Booker Prize. A leaked account of a judging committee's meeting revealed that the committee found itself deciding between Never Let Me Go and John Banville's "The Sea" before awarding the prize to the latter. He was appointed OBE for services to literature in 1995, and was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture in 1998. On Time magazine's 2005 list of the 100 greatest English language books since the magazine formed in 1923, Never Let Me Go was the most recently published book on the list.




Short fiction

  • Three short stories in Introduction 7: Stories by New Writers (1981): 'A Strange and Sometimes Sadness’, ‘Waiting for J’ and ‘Getting Poisoned’
  • A Family Supper - short story first published in 1982
  • Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall (2009)


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