21 August, 2009
When I posted my favourite general/literary fiction favourites, I forgot to include one of my favourite writers: Kazuo Ishiguro! Only after reading a review of Never Let Her Go on Stuck In A Book did it hit me that I had made an error and so I’m quickly typing away trying to make amends to the great Ishiguro and rectifying my mistake.
Initially I was drawn to Ishiguro because of his Japanese name. I thought, ‘Aha, here is a Japanese author who is a literary great in Britain.’ This was years before Haruki Murakami became a byword amongst the western literary crowd and around the time that Remains of the Day won Anthony Hopkins his Oscar nomination.
I began with An Artist of the Floating World in which Ishiguro explores the impact of Japan’s imperialism and its effects post-war on collaborators while also writing about life as an artist during this period. I then moved on to When We Were Orphans because I am drawn to anything relating to the interwar period and this was set in Shanghai in the 1930s and was also a mystery. I liked them both, but it wasn’t until I read Remains of the Day that I trully felt what a great writer Ishiguro is. It is the epitome of a tightly constructed novel where every word is chosen with such care that they could not possibly belong anywhere else. It is a study in sparsity, conciseness and understated prose and I read the book eagerly, but with real care. I normally tend to skim-read my books (because I’m a fast reader and also because I want to know what happens next) but with this book Ishiguro made me take my time.
I think with any great book that you read, you will always measure the writer’s other works against it. Like Stuck in a Book, Never Let Me Go left me with an impression of the story rather than a full picture. It was eerie and creepy and different, although I have come across stories about organ donors/clones in Japanese manga (for example Kaguyahime by Reiko Shimizu).
Of Granta’s Best of the Young British Novelists: 1983, such as Martin Amis, Julian Barnes and Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro is probably my favourite (but I have yet to read Pat Barker’s Life Class which is on my TBR bookshelf, so who knows?)