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Kazuo Ishiguro Is Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature

Kazuo Ishiguro image provided by Wikicommons

The Nobel Prize in Literature is given in recognition of a writer’s entire body of work rather than a single title. This year’s just announced recipient is British author Kazuo Ishiguro.  Born in Nagasaki, Japan, Ishiguro moved to Surrey, England when he was 5 years old and was raised and educated there.  In a recent interview, he said he discovered his love for literature through the Sherlock Holmes stories he found at the library.  Yeah, libraries! Once again, we can take the credit for starting someone on the path to literary greatness. Ishiguro is a somewhat surprising choice in that he is popular with American readers, and is not generally considered to be political.  Ishiguro’s novels are often written in the first person, with unreliable narrators.  Many of his works are available at your library; following are just a few:

The Remains of the Day book cover

The Remains of the Day

His third published novel, winner of the Booker Prize, and the most well-known, The Remains of the Day is the story of a buttoned up butler, obsessed with duty, who comes to look over his life with doubts. The story moves back and forth between the butler’s memories before and during WWII in service at Darlington Hall, and as he travels through the countryside in postwar England hoping to right a past mistake. He is the unreliable narrator who fails to understand the significance of the dangerous decisions made by British leaders and his much admired Lord Darlington until it is too late. It was made into an excellent movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, also available through your library.

Never Let Me Go book cover

Never Let Me Go

This is my personal favorite, although it might seem a bit slow paced, dark, and certainly very sad. Oddly, it is a dystopian fantasy set in the 1990s, mixed with realism, and producing an allegory of what it means to be human. It is narrated by young Kathy, growing up in an English boarding school, but it gradually turns into something much more sinister. No spoilers here. Just read the book. We also have copies of the DVD for the 2010 movie with Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightly.

The Buried Giant book cover

The Buried Giant

Ishiguro’s most recent novel is set roughly in Arthurian England, inspired by his reading the 14th century poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” and tells of a couple who journeys across a troubled land of mist and rain in hopes of finding a son they have not seen in years. Many consider it to be, well, weird, as in fantasy and ogres. Although it has typical Ishiguro themes, memory and how it can distort reality, and our dealings with the past, it is a decided departure from his other works. It is not just an individual’s distorted memories, but the lost memories of an entire society.

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