Kazuo Ishiguro is the winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, the awarding Swedish Academy said Thursday. Born in Japan and raised in Britain, Ishiguro is best known for the novels “The Remains of the Day” and “Never Let Me Go.”
Published in 1989, “The Remains of the Day” won the Man Booker Prize and was adapted into the 1993 film starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. It’s the story of a butler, Stevens, at an English country estate, and begins in the comedic vein of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories and ends somewhere quite different.
“In British and Japanese society, the ability to control emotions is considered dignified and elegant,” Ishiguro told The Times in 1990. In Stevens, there is “the tendency to mistake having any emotions at all with weakness.”
“Ultimately,” he continued, “the book is about the tragedy of a man who takes that thing too far, who somehow denies himself the right to love and be human. This is something the middle-class and upper-middle-class English do a lot.”
In its citation, the Nobel committee praised Ishiguro “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.”
Ishiguro is the author of seven novels and a short-story collection.
Sara Danius of the Swedish Academy said, “If you mix Jane Austen and Franz Kafka you have Ishiguro in a nutshell _ and you have to add a bit of Proust into the mix.”
The literary references were clear. Last year, the Nobel in literature was awarded to American musician Bob Dylan, citing his work as poetry. The decision made headlines, not all of them good. Danius declined to comment, in a streaming interview, on how the selection of Ishiguro might be received.
Instead, she focused on Ishiguro’s work. “He’s not out to redeem the past,” she said. “He’s exploring what you have to forget to survive as an individual and a society.”