Kazuo Ishiguro's Style and Concerns

Melissa Culross, '92, summer UTRA, 1990

Part of Ishiguro's appeal is his reserved style. He also reveals parts of his plots gradually, so the reader almost feels like a detective uncovering clues. That style could be a product of the manner in which the novelist works. Ishiguro is a slow writer, and the books do not come easily for him. "Every time I've got another novel to write I just can't believe that I ever managed to write the one before. I do desperate things. I make notes. I spend a lot of time thinking. I'd do almost anything to get it going," he says. "I'm not the kind of writer who can put a sheet of paper into the typewriter and improvise. I have to know more or less the whole structure of the book beforehand."

Another appealing aspect of Ishiguro's work is his characters. They tend to come from experiences much different from his. In A Pale View of Hills, the narrator is a woman. "I've always found it easier to be intimate and revealing with characters who were not like me," he explains, "When you're dealing with someone not like yourself, you have to think much harder about why that person behaves in certain ways, why things have happened to him or her. I think one of the dangers of having a kind of alter ego in fiction is that you drag in all kinds of things that are irrelevent in an artistic sense simply because they are things that you are concerned with as a person yourself." Moreover, he tends to concern himself with older characters in historical contexts, all of whom have done things they regret. He reasons that looking at what has happened to them can fight complacency in himself, a member of the younger generation.

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