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Kazuo Ishiguro

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Title: Kazuo Ishiguro  
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Subject: An Artist of the Floating World, Nocturnes (book), The Unconsoled, The White Countess, Never Let Me Go (2010 film)
Collection: 1954 Births, 20Th-Century British Novelists, 20Th-Century English Novelists, 21St-Century British Novelists, Alumni of the University of East Anglia, Alumni of the University of Kent, British Lyricists, Chevaliers of the Ordre Des Arts Et Des Lettres, Costa Book Award Winners, English Novelists, English-Language Writers from Japan, Fellows of the Royal Society of Literature, Japanese Emigrants to the United Kingdom, Living People, Man Booker Prize Winners, Naturalised Citizens of the United Kingdom, Officers of the Order of the British Empire, People from Nagasaki, Postmodern Writers
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Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro

Ishiguro in 2005
Born Kazuo Ishiguro
(1954-11-08) November 8, 1954
Nagasaki, Japan.
Occupation Novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, columnist, songwriter
Alma mater University of Kent at Canterbury
University of East Anglia
Period 1981–present
Genre Drama, historical fiction, science fiction, genre fiction
Notable works The Remains of the Day, An Artist of the Floating World, When We Were Orphans, Never Let Me Go
Notable awards Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize
1982 A Pale View of Hills
Whitbread Prize
1986 An Artist of the Floating World
Booker Prize
1989 The Remains of the Day
Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Spouse Lorna MacDougall (m. 1986)
Children Naomi Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro OBE, FRSA, FRSL (Japanese: カズオ・イシグロ or 石黒一雄; born 8 November 1954) is a British novelist, screenwriter and short story writer. He was born in Nagasaki, Japan; his family moved to England in 1960 when he was five. Ishiguro obtained his bachelor's degree from the University of Kent in 1978 and his Master's from the University of East Anglia's creative-writing course in 1980.

Ishiguro is one of the most celebrated contemporary fiction authors in the English-speaking world, having received four Man Booker Prize nominations, and winning the 1989 award for his novel The Remains of the Day. In 2008, The Times ranked Ishiguro 32nd on their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".[1]

His seventh novel, The Buried Giant, was published on March 3, 2015 in both the United States and the United Kingdom.


  • Early life and career 1
  • Literary characteristics 2
    • Ishiguro and Japan 2.1
  • Personal life 3
  • Awards 4
  • Works 5
    • Novels 5.1
    • Screenplays 5.2
    • Short fiction 5.3
    • Lyrics 5.4
  • Film adaptations 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8
    • Interviews 8.1
    • Profiles 8.2

Early life and career

Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki on 8 November 1954, the son of Shizuo Ishiguro, a physical oceanographer, and his wife Shizuko.[2] In 1960 his family, including his two sisters, moved to Guildford, Surrey so that his father could begin research at the National Institute of Oceanography.[2][3] He attended Stoughton Primary School and then Woking County Grammar School in Surrey.[2] After finishing school, he took a gap year and travelled through the United States and Canada, while writing a journal and sending demo tapes to record companies.[2]

In 1974, he began at the University of Kent, Canterbury, and he graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor of Arts (honours) in English and Philosophy.[2] After spending a year writing fiction, he resumed his studies at the University of East Anglia where he studied with Malcolm Bradbury and Angela Carter, and gained a Master of Arts in Creative Writing in 1980.[2][3] He became a British citizen in 1982.[4]

Ishiguro has co-written several songs for the jazz singer Stacey Kent, with saxophonist Jim Tomlinson, Kent's husband. Ishiguro has contributed lyrics to Kent's 2007 album Breakfast on the Morning Tram,[5] and her 2013 album The Changing Lights.[6] Ishiguro also wrote the liner notes to Kent's 2003 album, In Love Again.[7] Ishiguro first met Kent after he chose her recording of "They Can't Take That Away from Me" as one of his Desert Island Discs in 2002 and Kent subsequently asked him to write for her. Ishiguro has said of his lyric writing that "...with an intimate, confiding, first-person song, the meaning must not be self-sufficient on the page. It has to be oblique, sometimes you have to read between the lines" and that this realization has had an "enormous influence" on his fiction writing.[8]

Literary characteristics

Ishiguro with the cast of the Never Let Me Go film in 2010

A number of his novels are set in the past. Never Let Me Go, has science fiction qualities and a futuristic tone; however, it is set in the 1980s and 1990s, and thus takes place in a very similar yet alternate 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 surrounding World War II.

An Artist of the Floating World is set in an unnamed Japanese city during the period of reconstruction following Japan's surrender 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 by his grandson. Ishiguro said of his choice of time period, "I tend to be attracted to pre-war and postwar settings because I’m interested in this business of values and ideals being tested, and people having to face up to the notion that their ideals weren’t quite what they thought they were before the test came." [9]

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 to sympathise with the narrator as well. This 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 towards housekeeper Miss Kenton because he cannot reconcile his sense of service with his personal life.

Ishiguro's novels often end without any sense of resolution. The issues his characters confront are buried in the past and 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, typically discovering that this realisation brings comfort and an ending to mental anguish. This can be seen as a literary reflection on the Japanese idea of mono no aware. Ishiguro counts Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Marcel Proust amongst his influences. His works have also been compared to Salman Rushdie, Jane Austen, and Hanry James, though Ishiguro himself rejects these comparisons.[10]

Ishiguro and Japan

Ishiguro was born in Japan and has a Japanese name (the characters in the surname Ishiguro mean 'stone' 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.'"[11] Although some Japanese writers have had a distant influence on his writing — Jun'ichirō Tanizaki is the one he most frequently cites — Ishiguro has said that Japanese films, especially those of Yasujirō Ozu and Mikio Naruse, have been a more significant influence.[12]

Ishiguro left Japan in 1960 at the age of 5 and did not return to visit 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 settings of his first two novels were 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."[13]

When discussing his Japanese heritage and its influence on his upbringing, the author has stated, "I'm not entirely like English people because I've been brought up by Japanese parents in a Japanese-speaking home. My parents didn't realize that we were going to stay in this country for so long, they felt responsible for keeping me in touch with Japanese values. I do have a distinct background. I think differently, my perspectives are slightly different."[14] When asked to what extent he identifies as either Japanese or English the author insists, "People are not two-thirds one thing and the remainder something else. Temperament, personality, or outlook don't divide quite like that. The bits don't separate clearly. You end up a funny homogeneous mixture. This is something that will become more common in the latter part of the century—people with mixed cultural backgrounds, and mixed racial backgrounds. That's the way the world is going."[14]

Personal life

Ishiguro has been married to Lorna MacDougall, a social worker, since 1986. They met at the West London Cyrenians homelessness charity in Notting Hill, where Ishiguro was working as a residential resettlement worker.[15] They live in London with their daughter Naomi.


Except for A Pale View of Hills, all of Ishiguro's novels and his short story collection have been shortlisted for major awards.[16] Most significantly, An Artist of the Floating World, When We Were Orphans, and 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.[20][21]




Short fiction


  • "The Ice Hotel", ""I Wish I Could Go Travelling Again", "Breakfast on the Morning Tram" and "So Romantic" on Stacey Kent's 2007 album Breakfast on the Morning Tram,[5] and "The Summer We Crossed Europe In the Rain", "Waiter, Oh Waiter", and "The Changing Lights" on Kent's 2013 album The Changing Lights.[6]

Film adaptations


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e f
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Author's bio Granta 43 (1993). p 91
  5. ^ a b Breakfast on the Morning Tram at AllMusic
  6. ^ a b The Changing Lights at AllMusic
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Swift, Graham. "Kazuo Ishiguro", "BOMB Magazine" Fall, 1989. Retrieved 2012-01-12.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Interview with Allan Vorda and Kim Herzinger. "Stuck on the Margins: An Interview with Kazuo Ishiguro." Face to Face: Interviews with Contemporary Novelists. Rice University Press, 1994. p. 25. (ISBN 0-8926-3323-9)
  12. ^ Interview with Gregory Mason. "An Interview with Kazuo Ishiguro." Contemporary Literature XXX.3 (1989). p. 336.
  13. ^ Interview with Kenzaburo Oe. "The Novelist in Today's World: A Conversation." boundary 2 18.3 (1991) p. 110.
  14. ^ a b Swift, Graham "Kazuo Ishiguro", BOMB Magazine Fall, 1989. Retrieved on [7-25-2012.]
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b c d e f
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b Time magazine's greatest English novels. 5 January 2008. The Times. Retrieved on 2010-02-19.
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^

External links

  • Kazuo Ishiguro at British Council: Literature
  • Faber and Faber page on Ishiguro
  • VIDEO Kazuo Ishiguro talks about writing and music at the 2009 Sydney Writers Festival on ABC Fora
  • National Portrait Gallery portraits


  • Interview with Kazuo Ishiguro on memory, self-deception and "The Buried Giant" on The 7th Avenue Project Radio Show, April 2015
  • 2005 interview with Ishiguro in Sigla Magazine
  • 2006 Guardian Book Club podcast with Ishiguro by John Mullan


  • 1989 "A Case of Cultural Misperception," a profile at the New York Times by Susan Chira
  • 2005 "Living Memories," a profile at The Guardian by Nicholas Wroe
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