LONDON, Oct 5 — Kazuo Ishiguro, the 62-year-old British writer of Japanese origin who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature today, is one of the country’s most successful, yet lesser-known, novelists.
A prodigious writer since the early 1980s, he has penned a series of acclaimed novels which have been translated into dozens of foreign languages but has remained more reclusive than some of his contemporary peers.
Ishiguro is perhaps best known for The Remains of the Day, which secured him the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1989 and was turned into a successful film starring Anthony Hopkins.
He later admitted to writing the book in a prolific four-week period.
The author’s first two novels also landed notable literary awards: “A Pale View of Hills” won the 1982 Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize while his follow-up, An Artist of the Floating World”, claimed the 1986 Whitbread Prize.
He has also found fame with Never Let Me Go, his 2005 novel, and When We Were Orphans, published in 2007.
Time, memory and self-delusion
The British government awarded Ishiguro an honour for services to literature in 1995, while he received the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government in 1998.
In awarding their prize on Thursday, the Nobel committee noted Ishiguro was most associated with themes of memory, time and self-delusion.
Despite his enviable successes, he has appeared modest in interviews.
“I’m not a very inspired person,” he told the Financial Times in 1995. “I don’t have a lot of ideas.”
Asked what made novelists choose their often precarious occupation, he replied: “I won’t say writers are crazy people because I don’t care for stereotypes. But something is sufficiently out of line in their structure as people.”
Drifted into writing
Born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954, Ishiguro moved to England aged five, when his father began research at the National Institute of Oceanography.
Intended as only a temporary move, the family eventually settled permanently near Guildford, a town some 30 miles (50 kilometres) southwest of London.
After finishing school there in the area, he enrolled at the University of Kent in Canterbury, where he read English and Philosophy.
The author, who plays the piano and guitar, has said his first ambition was to become a rock star, but he drifted into writing instead.
“This sounds very blase.... but (writing) wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do,” he told the FT in the same 1995 interview.
Grouse-beater at Balmoral
Indeed, Ishiguro worked in several different professions before settling on writing, including as a grouse-beater for the Queen Mother at Balmoral and as a social worker in Glasgow and London.
His writing career finally launched during a creative break from social work.
Ishiguro had enrolled in an MA course in creative writing at the University of East Anglia where his potential was spotted by the publisher Faber, which signed him.
He began writing full-time in 1982 and has found sustained critical and commercial success ever since.
He currently lives in north London with his wife. — AFP