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Ishiguro, Kazuo

set novel appear city

(British, 1954– )

Ishiguro was born in Japan but moved to England at the age of 6. He writes beautifully understated, transparent prose which exposes every fluctuation of mood and feeling between his characters. The first two novels are set in Japan; begin with An Artist of the Floating World (1986) set in the aftermath of the Second World War, about an ageing painter whose best pictures now appear to have been propagandist; his daughters are critical of him; the past does not bear scrutiny by the present. These concerns are also central to the Booker Prize-winning The Remains of the Day (1989), where a butler in an English country house comes to understand that through devoting himself to his job serving Lord Darlington, now a discredited fascist sympathizer, he has betrayed himself and sacrificed his chance of personal happiness. The overlap between private and public life, and the issue of individual responsibility, are explored with formal precision. The Unconsoled (1995) marks a change of gear; set in a fictional central European city, and about a concert pianist who cannot discover any concrete information about his own imminent concert, this big novel is strongly reminiscent of Kafka. As if in a dream or nightmare, important characters from Ryder's life intrude at inappropriate moments, and terrible difficulties appear to block the most mundane tasks. Humorous but also full of pathos, this strange novel is as haunting as a recurrent dream. In When We Were Orphans (2000), set in the 1930s, the hero is a childishly innocent detective, looking for his parents, who vanished in Shanghai when he was a boy. His quest through the war-torn city is deeply disturbing.

Ian McEwan, Henry James,

Franz Kafka  JR

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