Nobel Prize in Literature 2017 Kazuo Ishiguro

October 9, 2017
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Kazuo Ishiguro – Interview

“I come in the line of lots of my greatest heroes. The greatest authors in history have received this Prize.”

Telephone interview with Kazuo Ishiguro after the announcement of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature on 5 October 2017. The interviewer is Adam Smith, Chief Scientific Officer of Nobel Media.

Transcript of the interview

Kazuo Ishiguro: Hi, hello, Mr Smith, how are you?

Adam Smith: Very well. Thank you very much indeed for calling, very kind. Congratulations on the award of the Nobel Prize.

KI: Yes, thank you. I’m sorry you were kept hanging on. It’s absolute chaos here I’m afraid. There’s suddenly … a lot of press has turned up and they’re queued up the road.

AS: I can imagine. So, yes, your day must have changed in a totally unexpected way. How did you hear this news?

KI: Well I was sitting in the kitchen writing an email to a friend and the phone rang. And it started off as not entirely certain. People at my literary agents were watching the live feed come through on the announcement. I don’t think they were expecting it, they were just waiting to hear who won the Nobel Prize this year. And so I started to receive calls back to back, and each time we were trying to establish if it was a hoax or if it was fake news, or what it was. And then it started to become more and more certain. By the time the BBC called I started to take it seriously. But I haven’t actually stopped since then. It’s a bit like the Marie Celeste here – everything’s exactly as it was at about 11 o’clock, or whenever, before the whole thing started. And then it was pandemonium. There’s now people queueing up the street to interview me.

AS: So has it sunk in?

KI: No! No, I don’t think it will sink in for a long time. I mean, it’s a ridiculously prestigious honour, in as far as these kinds of things go. I don’t think you would have a more prestigious prize than the Nobel Prize. And comments I would make, I mean, one is, a lot of that prestige must come from the fact that the Swedish Academy has successfully, I think, kept above the fray of partisan politics and so on. And I think it’s remained one of the few things that’s respected, whose integrity is respected by many people around the world, and so I think a lot of the sense of honour of receiving the Prize comes from the actual status of the Swedish Academy. And I think that’s a great achievement unto itself, over all these years the Swedish Academy has managed to retain that high ground, in all the different walks of life that it honours. And then the other reason it’s a terrific honour for me is because … you know I come in a line of lots of my greatest heroes, absolutely great authors. The greatest authors in history have received this Prize, and I have to say, you know, it’s great to come one year after Bob Dylan who was my hero since the age of 13. He’s probably my biggest hero.

AS: That’s nice company to be in.

KI: Yeah. I do a very good Bob Dylan impersonation, but I won’t do it for you right now.

AS: That’s a pity, I would have liked that. Maybe at least when you come to Stockholm in December, please.

KI: Yes, I could try that.

AS: You must. It’s a funny time in Britain at the moment. Does that place any particular significance for you on receiving the Prize now?

KI: I think it does. I mean, in fact just before I picked up the phone to you I was writing a kind of statement for press release, and I was trying to think what could I say in three lines, and I think the timing is pertinent for me because I feel … I’m nearly 63 years old, I can’t remember a time when we were so uncertain about our values in the western world. You know, I think we are going through a time of great uncertainty about our values, about our leadership. People don’t feel safe. So I do hope that things like the Nobel Prize will in some way contribute to the positive things in the world, to the decent values in the world, and that it would contribute to some sense of continuity and decency. Yeah.

AS: I suppose what you have been writing about all this time, in a way, is that question of our place in the world, our connection to each other, our connection with the world. That is perhaps the theme you explore the most, do you think?

KI: Yes, I would say so, I mean I think … If I could put it a little bit more narrowly that that, I mean it’s probably … one of the things that’s interested me always is how we live in small worlds and big worlds at the same time, that we have a personal arena in which we have to try and find fulfilment and love. But that inevitably intersects with a larger world, where politics, or even dystopian universes, can prevail. So I think I’ve always been interested in that. We live in small worlds and big worlds at the same time and we can’t, you know, forget one or the other.

AS: Thank you, well, these are things to talk about on a different day I guess.

KI: Yes.

AS: For the moment you have to work out how you’re going to handle this line of press. Just a last thought – how do you feel about the deluge of attention you’re about to receive?

KI: Well, I think … I take it very positively. I mean, while it’s a little unsettling because I had no idea when I woke up this morning that it was going to be anything other than a very ordinary day, I think it’s a great thing that the press, the media, take the Nobel Prize for Literature seriously. I’ll be very alarmed if there was a day when somebody won the Nobel Prize for Literature and nobody was interested. That would suggest that some awful things had happened to the world.

AS: A day to celebrate literature has to be a good day.

KI: Yes, and I think literature can be a great thing, it can be sometimes a force for bad as well. You know I think things like the Nobel Prize for Literature exist to try and ensure that it is a force for good.

AS: Lovely. Well thank you very much indeed, and we very much look forward to welcoming you to Stockholm in December.

KI: Yeah, really looking forward to it. Well, very nice to talk to you Mr Smith.

AS: Thank you very much indeed.

KI: Take care now. Bye.

Biobibliographical Notes

Kazuo Ishiguro was born on November 8, 1954 in Nagasaki, Japan. The family moved to the United Kingdom when he was five years old; he returned to visit his country of birth only as an adult. In the late 1970s, Ishiguro graduated in English and Philosophy at the University of Kent, and then went on to study Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.

Kazuo Ishiguro has been a full-time author ever since his first book, A Pale View of Hills (1982). Both his first novel and the subsequent one, An Artist of the Floating World (1986) take place in Nagasaki a few years after the Second World War. The themes Ishiguro is most associated with are already present here: memory, time, and self-delusion. This is particularly notable in his most renowned novel, The Remains of the Day (1989), which was turned into film with Anthony Hopkins acting as the duty-obsessed butler Stevens.

Ishiguro’s writings are marked by a carefully restrained mode of expression, independent of whatever events are taking place. At the same time, his more recent fiction contains fantastic features. With the dystopian work Never Let Me Go (2005), Ishiguro introduced a cold undercurrent of science fiction into his work. In this novel, as in several others, we also find musical influences. A striking example is the collection of short stories titled Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall (2009), where music plays a pivotal role in depicting the characters’ relationships. In his latest novel, The Buried Giant (2015), an elderly couple go on a road trip through an archaic English landscape, hoping to reunite with their adult son, whom they have not seen for years. This novel explores, movingly, how memory relates to oblivion, history to the present, and fantasy to reality.

Apart from his eight books, Ishiguro has also written scripts for film and television.

Bibliography – a selection

Works in English

A Pale View of Hills. – London : Faber & Faber, 1982

An Artist of the Floating World. – London : Faber & Faber, 1986

The Remains of the Day. – London : Faber & Faber, 1989

The Unconsoled. – London : Faber & Faber, 1995

When We Were Orphans. – London : Faber & Faber, 2000

Never Let Me Go. – London : Faber & Faber, 2005

Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall. – London : Faber & Faber, 2009

The Buried Giant. – London : Faber & Faber, 2015

 

Short Stories

”A Strange and Sometimes Sadness”, ”Waiting for J.” and ”Getting Poisoned” in Introduction: No. 7: Stories by New Writers. – London : Faber & Faber, 1981

”A Family Supper” in Firebird 2 : Writing Today / edited by T. J. Binding. – Harmondsworth : Penguin, 1983

”The Summer After the War” in Granta, 1983:7

”October 1948” in Granta, 1985:17

”A Village After Dark” in The New Yorker, May 21, 2001

 

Film and Television

A Profile of Arthur J. Mason / directed by Michael Whyte ; screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro, 1984

The Gourmet / directed by Michael Whyte ; screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro, 1986

”The Gourmet” in Granta, 1993:43

The Remains of the Day / directed by James Ivory ; screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, 1993

The Saddest Music in the World / directed by Guy Maddin ; screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro, 2003

The White Countess / directed by James Ivory ; screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro, 2005

Never Let Me Go / directed by Mark Romanek ; screenplay by Alex Garland, 2010

 

Works in French

Lumière pâle sur les collines : roman / traduit de l’anglais par Sophie Mayoux. – Paris : Presses de la Renaissance, 1984. – Traduction de: A Pale View of Hills

Un artiste du monde flottant / traduit de l’anglais par Denis Authier. – Paris : Presses de la Renaissance, 1987. – Traduction de: An Artist of the Floating World

Les vestiges du jour / traduit de l’anglais par Sophie Mayoux. – Paris : Presses de la Renaissance, 1990. – Traduction de: The Remains of the Day

L’inconsolé : roman / traduit de l’anglais par Sophie Mayoux. – Paris : Calmann-Lévy, 1997. – Traduction de: The Unconsoled

Quand nous étions orphelins : roman / traduit de l’anglais par François Rosso. – Paris : Calmann-Lévy, 2001. – Traduction de: When We Were Orphans

Auprès de moi toujours / traduit de l’anglais par Anne Rabinovitch. – Paris : Éditions des 2 Terres, 2006. – Traduction de: Never Let Me Go

Nocturnes : cinq nouvelles de musique au crépuscule / traduit de l’anglais par Anne Rabinovitch. – Paris : Éditions des 2 terres, 2010. – Traduction de: Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

Le géant enfoui : roman / traduit de l’anglais par Anne Rabinovitch. – Paris : Éditions des 2 terres, 2015. – Traduction de: The Buried Giant

 

Other

Un village à la nuit tombée : nouvelle / Kazuo Ishiguro ; traduit de l’anglais par François Rosso ; postface de François Gallix. – Paris : Calmann-Lévy, 2001. – Traduction de : A Village After Dark

 

Works in Spanish

Pálida luz en las colinas / traducción de Ángel Luis Hernández Francés. – Barcelona : Anagrama, 1988. – Título original: A Pale View of Hills

Un artista del mundo flotante / traducción de Ángel Luis Hernández Francés. – Barcelona : Anagrama, 1989. – Título original: An Artist of the Floating World

Los restos del día / traducción de Ángel Luis Hernández Francés. –Barcelona : Círculo de Lectores, D.L.1991. – Título original: The Remains of the Day

Los inconsolables / traducción de Jesús Zulaika. – Barcelona : Anagrama, 1997. – Título original: The Unconsoled

Cuando fuimos huérfanos / traducción de Jesús Zulaika. – Barcelona : Anagrama, 2001. – Título original: When We Were Orphans

Nocturnos : cinco historias de música y crepúsculo / traducción de Antonio-Prometeo Moya. – Barcelona : Anagrama 2010. – Título original: Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

Nunca me abandones / traducción de Jesús Zulaika. – Barcelona : Anagrama, 2005. – Título original: Never Let Me Go

Los restos del día / traducción de Ángel Luis Hernández Francés. – Barcelona : Anagrama, 2015. – Título original: The Remains of the Day

El gigante enterrado / traducción de Mauricio Bach. – Barcelona : Anagrama, 2016. – Título original: The Buried Giant

 

Other

”El gourmet” in Granta, 3 / editores, Valerie Miles y Aurelio Major. – Barcelona : Emecé, 2004. – Título original: The Gourmet

 

Works in Swedish

Berg i fjärran / översättning av Ann Henning. – Stockholm : Viva, 1985. – Originaltitel: A Pale View of Hills

Konstnär i den flytande världen / översättning av Ann Henning. – Stockholm : Viva, 1987. – Originaltitel: An Artist of the Floating World

Återstoden av dagen / översättning av Annika Preis. – Stockholm : Viva, 1990. – Originaltitel: The Remains of the Day

Den otröstade / översättning av Rose-Marie Nielsen. – Stockholm : Wahlström & Widstrand, 1996. – Originaltitel: The Unconsoled

Vi som var föräldralösa /översättning av Rose-Marie Nielsen. – Stockholm : Wahlström & Widstrand, 2000. – Originaltitel: When We Were Orphans

Never let me go /översättning av Rose-Marie Nielsen. – Stockholm : Wahlström & Widstrand, 2005. – Originaltitel: Never Let Me Go

Nocturner : fem berättelser om skymning och musik /översättning av Rose-Marie Nielsen. – Stockholm : Wahlström & Widstrand, 2010. – Originaltitel: Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

Begravd jätte /översättning av Rose-Marie Nielsen. – Stockholm : Wahlström & Widstrand, 2016. – Originaltitel: The Buried Giant

 

Works in German

Damals in Nagasaki : Roman / übersetzt von Margarete Längsfeld. – Zürich : Arche, 1984. – Originaltitel: A Pale View of Hills

Der Maler der fliessenden Welt : Roman / übersetzt von Hartmut Zahn. – Stuttgart : Klett-Cotta, 1988. – Originaltitel: An Artist of the Floating World

Was vom Tage übrigblieb : Roman / übersetzt von Hermann Stiehl. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1990. – Originaltitel: The Remains of the Day

Die Ungetrösteten : Roman / übersetzt von Isabell Lorenz. – Reinbek bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1996. – Originaltitel: The Unconsoled

Als wir Waisen waren : Roman / übersetzt von Sabine Herting. – München : Knaus, 2000. – Originaltitel: When We Were Orphans

Alles, was wir geben mussten : Roman / übersetzt von Barbara Schaden. – München : Blessing, 2005. – Originaltitel: Never Let Me Go

Bei Anbruch der Nacht / übersetzt von Barbara Schaden. – München : Blessing, 2009. – Originaltitel: Nocturnes : Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

Der begrabene Riese : Roman / übersetzt von Barbara Schaden. – München : Blessing, 2015. – Originaltitel: The Buried Giant

 

Other

”A family supper = Ein Familien-Essen” in Contemporary British short stories = Englische Kurzgeschichten / Auswahl und übersetzt von Harald Raykowski ; unter Mitarb. von Stefanie Lotz. – München : Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verl., 1997

 

Further reading

Conversations with Kazuo Ishiguro / edited by Brian W. Shaffer and Cynthia F. Wong. – Jackson : University Press of Mississippi, 2008

Drąg, Wojciech, Trauma and Nostalgia in the Novels of Kazuo Ishiguro. – Newcastle upon Tyne : Cambridge Scholars Press, 2014

Garland, Alex, Never Let Me Go / screenplay by Alex Garland ; introduction by Kazuo Ishiguro. – London : Faber and Faber, 2011

Horton, Emily, Contemporary Crisis Fictions : Affects and Ethics in the Modern British Novel. – Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan, 2014

Kazuo Ishiguro Contemporary Critical Perspectives / edited by Sean Matthews and Sebastian Groes. – London : Continuum, 2009

Kazuo Ishiguro : New Critical Visions of the Novels / edited by Sebastian Groes and Barry Lewis. – Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan, 2011

Kazuo Ishiguro in A Global Context / edited by Cynthia F. Wong and Hülya Yildiz. – Farnham : Ashgate, 2015

Lewis, Barry, Kazuo Ishiguro. – Manchester : Manchester University Press, 2000

Parkes, Adam, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day : A Reader’s Guide. – New York : Continuum, 2001

Petry, Mike, Narratives of Memory and Identity : The Novels of Kazuo Ishiguro. – Frankfurt/M. : Lang, 1999

Shaffer, Brian W., Understanding Kazuo Ishiguro. – Columbia : University of South Carolina Press, 1997

Sim, Wai-chew, Globalization and Dislocation in the Novels of Kazuo Ishiguro. – Leviston, N. Y. : Edwin Mellen Press, 2006

Sim, Wai-chew, Kazuo Ishiguro. – London : Routledge, 2009

Stanton, Katherine, Cosmopolitan Fictions : Ethics, Politics, and Global Change in the Works of Kazuo Ishiguro, Michael Ondaatje, Jamaica Kincaid, and J. M. Coetzee. – New York : Routledge, 2005

Teo, Yugin, Kazuo Ishiguro and Memory. – Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan, 2014

Wong, Cynthia F., Kazuo Ishiguro. – Tavistock : Northcote House in association with the British Council, 2000

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