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Kazuo Ishiguro Biography

(1954– ), A Pale View of Hills, An Artist of the Floating World

British novelist, born in Nagasaki, Japan, of ‘middle-class samurai parents’; he moved with his family to England at the age of six where he was educated at the universities of Kent and East Anglia. Ishiguro has written short stories and television plays but it was his first three dazzling short novels that brought him recognition. Though he did not return to Japan until a brief visit in 1989, these novels have a Japanese setting or atmosphere. In A Pale View of Hills (1982) Etsuko, a Japanese widow, living alone in an English village, being visited by the Westernized daughter of her second, English marriage, is haunted by the suicide of her older daughter Keiko. An Artist of the Floating World (1986; Whitbread Prize) is also a retrospective novel, this time set entirely in post-war Japan. Masuji Ono, a once-distinguished painter, who is trying to get his younger daughter married, and is being visited by his older daughter and her little boy, looks back on a career which now seems to him discredited. His move from the ‘floating world’ of traditionally sensual Japanese art to imperialist propaganda is tainted, retrospectively, by his country's shame and defeat. The comedy of the family relationships is held in balance with Ono's self-deception and despair. The Remains of the Day (1989; Booker Prize) is set in England at the time of Suez, 1956, but keeps the Japanese theme of the loyal servant. Stevens, butler at Darlington Hall, sacrificed his emotional life for the sake of ‘greatness’ in his profession. But the later Lord Darlington is a disgraced figure who was a dupe of the Nazis, and Stevens's life of service is revealed as a catastrophic self-betrayal. In all three books, the self-deceptions and evasions of the central figure are presented through a cryptic, formal narrative which seems to pick its way through landscapes of lost opportunities and stifled emotions. The Unconsoled (1995), his most experimental work, is set in an unnamed Eastern European city, where the central character, a pianist named Mr Ryder, arrives in order to perform at some unspecified cultural event. He is then involved in a series of no less vague and frustrating encounters—a reception in his honour at which he is obliged to appear in his dressing-gown; a photo-call for which he is equally unprepared—in the course of which he meets people from his past, including his wife and stepson, his parents, and various old school friends, all of whom relate their stories. The enigmatic mood of the novel, with its conscious echoes of Joyce, Kafka, Borges, Calvino, and other practitioners of the allencompassing fable, is sustained to the end.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Robin’ [Iris Guiver Wilkinson] ‘Hyde Biography to Percy Janes Biography