His unique sensibility, which originated in Japan and was fostered in Britain, has been recognized globally.
Kazuo Ishiguro, a Japanese-born British novelist, has been named the winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature. Ishiguro described his pleasure at winning the prize in London, saying, “It is amazing and totally unexpected news.” We would like to congratulate him from the bottom of our hearts.
In announcing the award, the Swedish Academy said his “novels of great emotional force uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.” Judges of the prize praised his creative ability to adeptly weave contemporary themes, including life ethics and international disputes, into stories.
U.S. singer-songwriter Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature last year, sparking controversy over what the prize is supposed to be about. Awarding the prize to Ishiguro, known as a writer of the narrative-rich novels that are characteristic of British literature, indicates that the Nobel Prize in Literature has returned to where it started.
Ishiguro, 62, was born in Nagasaki. He moved to Britain at 5, because his father took up a new research post in the country, and he later gained British citizenship. He speaks almost no Japanese and writes his works in English.
Ishiguro made his debut as a long-form novel writer with “A Pale View of Hills” (Japanese title: “Toi Yamanami no Hikari”) in 1982. In 1989, he received the Man Booker Prize, the highest literary award in Britain, for “The Remains of the Day,” (Japanese title: “Hi no Nagori”) a novel about an old British butler who is left behind by the times.
Widely known in Japan is “Never Let Me Go,” published in 2005, whose Japanese title is “Watashi wo Hanasanaide.” The novel describes the grief of young people who were cloned and born only for the sake of donating their organs. The novel was made into a movie, and a Japanese TV drama version was broadcast.
He built a solid position as a novelist who represents Britain with the fantasy “The Buried Giant” (Japanese title: “Wasurerareta Kyojin”), published in 2015, which evokes ethnic conflicts.
Ishiguro has a profound understanding of British culture, which is completely different from Japan’s, and projects onto his works the deep knowledge and understanding he has obtained.
His novels include those reflecting his flow of emotions toward Japan. “A Pale View of Hills” features a Japanese woman living in Britain who looks back on her life in Nagasaki.
His next work, “An Artist of the Floating World” (Japanese title: “Ukiyo no Gaka”), is set in Japan. It is said he wanted to stop his memories of Japan from fading.
Upon being named the Nobel Prize winner, Ishiguro said that Japan always exists in his mind, explaining, “A large part of my way of looking at the world, my artistic approach, is Japanese.” What underlies his works could be an integration of Japanese and British emotions.
Writers who produce magnificent works in the native languages of countries to which they emigrate have been emerging conspicuously.
Ishiguro winning the Nobel Prize makes us feel new possibilities for literature in this age of globalization.