Having chosen, amidst considerable controversy, to award last year’s Nobel prize in literature to singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, those waiting for this year’s announcement were naturally a little uncertain of exactly what to expect. Therefore, I found myself somewhat relieved and more than a little satisfied to discover this year’s recipient was Kazuo Ishiguro, a writer of considerable acclaim.
Prominent on the literary scene since the publication of his first novel, A Pale View of Hills, in 1982, almost all of his books since have found themselves among the shortlists of major awards, including the Whitbread and Booker prizes. A man of immense literary talent, his achievements to date present a resounding testament to the calibre of his work, now fittingly topped with a Nobel prize.
Ishiguro’s novels are entertaining and intelligent in equal measure. Effortlessly, one becomes invested in the characters, who are generally likeable and fall into situations with which the reader can sympathise. I had the good fortune to study Ishiguro’s Booker prize winning novel, The Remains of the Day, during sixth form and was continually amazed by the subtlety of his prose, hiding fragile and profoundly human characters. The protagonists of his novels are often doomed from the start and for them the novel merely signifies a path towards acceptance of a fate which always is, with hindsight, inevitable.
the subtlety of his prose hides fragile and profoundly human characters
Ishiguro explained to The Paris Review that “the essence of what I wanted to write was moveable… I’ve written the same book three times.” Yet each time, he writes with such nuance that every novel is another, keener insight into loss and desperation. Despite their often tragic endings, there is always a special sort of profoundly human resilience; though Mr. Stevens in The Remains of the Day realises he has lost his chance at a life of real happiness outside work, he resolves to “practice with renewed effort.” Even in defeat, Ishiguro’s characters are brave.
Ironically enough, Ishiguro originally intended to pursue a career as a musician, a fact which makes his receiving the prize all the more fitting. In 2005, Ishiguro told The Guardian that “my hero was, and still is Bob Dylan.” In the same interview, he draws comparisons between song lyrics and short stories and the relationship between literature and music, pulling together a patchwork quilt of Nobel laureates past and present. Choosing Kazuo Ishiguro this year is a perfect and poetic way to rationalise the previous year’s choice.
In An Artist of the Floating World, Masuji Ono reminds himself there exists “a profound sense of happiness… from the conviction that one’s efforts have been justified… have all been worthwhile; that one has achieved something of real value and distinction.” Choosing Kazuo Ishiguro as the recipient of the Nobel prize in literature seems a clear acknowledgement of the value and distinction of his literary career thus far, and a promise of what is yet to come.