Kazuo Ishiguro Wins 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature

Kazuo Ishiguro

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2017 has been awarded to Kazuo Ishiguro “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world” the citation says.

Following the announcement, Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, described Kazuo Ishiguro’s writing style as a mix of Jane Austen and Franz Kafka: “But you have to add a little bit of Marcel Proust into the mix, and then you stir.”

The fantastic elements in his latest novel, The Buried Giant (2015) argue for his inclusion among the small number of sff authors to win the prize, such as Kipling and Doris Lessing.

That he would consider himself to belong was threshed out in a 2015 exchange between Ursula K. Le Guin and Ishiguro. After he was quoted in an NYT interview pondering, “Will readers follow me into this? Will they understand what I’m trying to do, or will they be prejudiced against the surface elements? Are they going to say this is fantasy?” – Le Guin made the news with her reply – “Well, yes, they probably will. Why not? It appears that the author takes the word for an insult. To me that is so insulting, it reflects such thoughtless prejudice, that I had to write this piece in response.”

Ishiguro subsequently explained, “[Le Guin]’s entitled to like my book or not like my book, but as far as I am concerned, she’s got the wrong person. I am on the side of the pixies and the dragons,” and Le Guin withdrew her criticism: “I am delighted to let Mr Ishiguro make his own case, and to say I am sorry for anything that was hurtful in my evidently over-hasty response to his question ‘Will they think this is fantasy?’”

And in the Academy’s bio-bibliography Ishiguro is explicitly associated with sf —

Ishiguro’s dystopian Never Let Me Go (2005) , Ishiguro introduced a cold undercurrent of science fiction into his work.

His other novels include A Pale View of Hills (1982), An Artist of the Floating World (1986), and The Remains of the Day (1989), which was turned into film with Anthony Hopkins acting as the duty-obsessed butler Stevens. Apart from his eight books, Ishiguro has also written scripts for film and television.

After the award was announced Ishiguro told The Guardian

“It comes at a time when the world is uncertain about its values, its leadership and its safety,” Ishiguro said. “I just hope that my receiving this huge honour will, even in a small way, encourage the forces for goodwill and peace at this time.”

[Thanks to NickPheas for the story.]

5 thoughts on “Kazuo Ishiguro Wins 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature

  1. Congratulations to Ishiguro. I wish they’d give it to LeGuin while she’s still around.

  2. I know, right? I worry they’re not going to give it to ANOTHER fantasy author in her lifetime…and honestly, I think she’s far better at it than he is.

  3. Never Let me Go is also in the speculative fiction space. While there’s little to no mention of the technologies that make the society involved possible, it’s still a work about how medical technology could drive a societal change, so I’d certainly class it as soft SF.

  4. I doubt he’s seen as a genre author in the eyes of the Nobel committee, despite having written works resembling SF, fantasy and mystery.

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