For many writers, winning the Nobel Prize in literature, the world’s most prestigious and coveted literary honor, is the moment of ultimate recognition and realization that their work will now be cemented into history.
Winners are some of the most acclaimed writers of the past two centuries, such as Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill and Gabriel García Márquez, so it is understandable why every writer dreams about receiving this honor.
This year, the dream came true for Kazuo Ishiguro, a British writer of Japanese descent, who is described as a writer “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world” by the Swedish Academy in their honorary citation.
Ishiguro is a very successful and critically acclaimed writer, making this honor a symbolic victory for the Academy, which has been criticized for awarding the lesser known writers as opposed to those who have received universal acclaim.
Ishiguro’s recognition for being a fiction writer marks the Academy’s return to its beloved genre, following two years of awarding writers in non-traditional genres, such as the Belarusian non-fiction writer Svetlana Alexievich in 2015, and American songwriter Bob Dylan last year.
Many still debate whether Dylan’s poetry and songwriting deserved a literary award. Ishiguro however, did not win because of his success and his medium; he won because his works are great, transcending and deserving of recognition.
Born in Japan, Ishiguro immigrated to Britain with his parents when he was 5 years old. Although he grew up in England, his Japanese roots have always played a big part in his upbringing, and later on in his literary style.
His first two novels A Pale View of the Hills and An Artist of the Floating Worlds were set in Japan, yet he has confessed that the settings were imaginary.
In an interview with a fellow Nobel Prize winner and Japanese writer Kenzaburo Oe, Ishiguro stated, “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.”
Throughout his lustrous career, Ishiguro proved he is a master of imagining different worlds.
To the general public, the Nobel laureate is known for his third novel Remains of the Day, which was adapted into a Hollywood film starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, and received eight Academy Award nominations.
Remains of the Day focuses on a British butler who recollects a story of his professional and personal relationships with the housekeeper in the years leading up to World War II.
Upon learning about the writer’s background, readers were stunned to find out that a novel so emblematic of the British lifestyle and literary traditions, was written by an immigrant.
Just like his characters, Ishiguro has been living in between worlds, which climaxed in his 2005 novel Never Let me Go, a winner of the Booker Prize.
The novel deals with the concepts of time and space in a dystopian world of three lovers finding themselves in a complicated love triangle.
Ishiguro’s genius is in his ability to absorb the circumstances of his novels and deliver them in a way that will keep reality and imagination on a brisk of morphing.
“If you mix Jane Austen and Franz Kafka, then you have Kazuo Ishiguro — but you have to add a little bit of Marcel Proust into the mix, and then you stir, but not too much, and then you have his writings,” said Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy.
Ishiguro is never the same, yet he is always consistent. He has written his novels in the forms and styles of histories, diaries, detective stories, science and dystopian fictions.
He toys with genres, always trying to explore new realities without falling into a pretentious chase for Renaissance versatility.
He is always trying new things, yet one thing is always constant of this master’s works—it touches and affects the reader, allowing him to dissolve into the world of fiction just enough to escape from reality and at the same, be conscious of it.
But beside experimenting with genres, Ishiguro has tried himself in other mediums. He has written short stories, plays for stages and screenplays. He has even contributed lyrics to his frequent collaborator, the Grammy-nominated Jazz singer Stacey Kent.
Ishiguro has stated numerous times that music was and still remains one of his most beloved passions, and he has a tremendous love and appreciation for Dylan.
Ishiguro is now in talks about writing a manga comics series, which will serve both a return to his Japanese roots and a new canvas for experimenting and playing.
Ishiguro is set on continuing to challenge and redefine the parameters of literature and with a Nobel Prize to his name, he can achieve anything he sets his pen to.