The Remains of the Day

Nobel literature laureate Kazuo Ishiguro on Thursday described how his writing has been influenced by a wish to preserve memories, and how literature can “break down barriers.” Literary greats like French author Marcel Proust also shaped him, the Japanese-born British author said in his Nobel award lecture.
Ishiguro moved to Britain at age 5 and, well into his teens, his parents discussed moving back to Japan “next year,” he said.
His parents’ conversations as well as monthly parcels with comics and magazines sent by his grandfather helped him maintain “a steady supply of images and impressions” of Japan.
In his 20s, Ishiguro realized “that ‘my’ Japan was unique and at the same time terribly fragile.”
He started writing to get “down on paper that world’s special colours, mores, etiquettes, its dignity, its shortcomings… before they faded forever from my mind.”
Reading Proust, he saw that “the ordering of events and scenes didn’t follow the usual demands of chronology, nor those of a linear plot,”which helped him in his future writing.
His first book, “A Pale View of Hills” was published in 1982 and like the novel that followed, “An Artist of the Floating World” (1986) takes place in Nagasaki — the city where Ishiguro was born 1954.
Following October’s award announcement of the Nobel prize, the Swedish academy’s permanent secretary Sara Danius said Ishiguro could be compared to a “cross between Jane Austen and Franz Kafka.”
In its citation, the Swedish Academy said Ishiguro, “in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.”
His lecture also touched on “The Remains of the Day”, the book he is perhaps best known for, also made into a movie.
While listening to a song by Tom Waits, Ishiguro said he found a sentiment that he was able to use in a key scene in the novel, in which an English butler, the main character, “realizes, too late in his life, that he has lived his life by the wrong values.”
Other singers that have influenced Ishiguro, who also writes musical lyrics with his friend and collaborator Stacey Kent, include BobDylan, Nina Simone, Emmylou Harris, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen and Gillian Welch.
Ishiguro has expressed concern about the current state of world affairs saying that “the era since the [1989] fall of the Berlin Wall seems like one of complacency, of opportunities lost.
Enormous inequalities — of wealth and opportunity — have been allowed to grow, between nations and within nations.”
Writers, not the least from younger generations, could nevertheless “inspire and lead us.”
“In a time of dangerously increasing division, we must listen,” said Ishiguro. ‘‘Good writing and good reading will break down barriers.”
On Wednesday, Ishiguro told a news conference in Stockholm he was working on a project using cartoons. ‘‘I think all storytelling forms need to explored,” he said.
On Sunday, Ishiguro is due to receive his award at a ceremony in Stockholm, along with the winners of the academy’s prizes for science and economics.
The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway.
Delivering the lecture is a prerequisite to receiving its cash reward. This year, the Nobel prizes are each worth 9 million kronor ($1.1 million). Last year’s Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to US singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.
He was unable to attend the traditional award ceremony in December and delivered his lecture as an audio recording in June. Laureates also receive a Nobel medal and a diploma.
With the exception of economics, the prizes were endowed by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel (1833-96), the inventor of dynamite.
The awards are traditionally presented on December 10, marking the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896. — dpa

Lennart Simonsson