Kazuo Ishiguro's Life and Works (1954- )

Randall Bass, Assistant Professor of English, Georgetown University

Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1954 and moved to Britain in 1960. At the time, his parents thought that they would soon return to Japan and they prepared him to resume life in his native land. They ended up staying, and Ishiguro grew up straddling two societies, the Japan of his parents and his adopted England.

Ishiguro attended the University of Kent at Canterbgury and the University of East Anglia. All three of his novels have received critical acclaim. His first novel, A Pale View of Hills, won the Winifred Holtby Prize of the Royal Society of Literature; his second, An Artist of the Floating World, won the 1986 Whitbread Book of the year Award; The Remains of the Day was awarded the 1989 Booker Prize.

In all three of his books the protagonist looks back on his or her life, trying to assess the events that have shaped it. In A Pale View of Hills, Ishiguro's first novel, a widow in post-war Japan recalls her life in Nagasaki. Characteristically, Ishiguro tells the story without once mentioning the Bomb, just as the Suez Crisis of 1956 silently stands behind The Remains of the Day as the novel's present time setting.

In his second novel, An Artist of the Floating World, Masuji Ono, the protagonist, also reflects on the events shaping his life. Ono spends his days trying to negotiate the marraigae of his younger daughter, visiting former haunts and playing with his young grandson. Through reminiscences and contacts with old colleagues and students, it is revealed that Ono squandered his artistic talents and channeled his creativity into Japan's militaristic propaganda efforts. In his old age, Ono finds himself condemned for ideas he held so strongly in his youth.

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