Kazuo Ishiguro’s editor, Angus Cargill, on the Nobel Laureate’s milestone works, his universality and what makes his writing so inimitable.
The news of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nobel Prize in Literature could not have been more exciting for us all at Faber. Along with a handful of others, ‘Ish’ is one of the writers most closely associated with our list and the reason why many of us work here today.
Having had the privilege of working closely on his last three books – Never Let Me Go, Nocturnes and The Buried Giant – I can imagine, too, how pleased everyone who has ever worked with him will be. It’s thrilling to see how supportive the wider world has been of this choice; testament to how deeply readers cherish his novels.
From the enigmatic, minimalist A Pale View of Hills to the extraordinarily moving novel of memory and manners The Remains of the Day and the haunting Never Let Me Go, I can’t think of another writer whose oeuvre feels so defined and complete. Sentence by sentence his work is unmistakably his – that seemingly cool, almost detached prose – and yet the worlds and settings his novels inhabit are bold and fearlessly different, from the unnamed central European world of The Unconsoled to the mythical British past of The Buried Giant.
He dares to play with distinct genres in his work, a perilous act in the sometimes precious world of literary publishing, and his curiosity takes us far and wide, from period settings to detective fiction, speculative fiction to fantasy.
Never an author to be rushed – he has, to date, published a book about every five years – the restraint and careful consideration he puts into his every word is surely how he has come to sustain such a remarkably high standard. It’s hard for any writer or artist to achieve this over a long period of time, and I would argue that he is one of the few living writers who proves it to be possible.
There is also, it is worth noting, an elemental goodness that informs his writing which is perhaps as unfashionable as it is hard to achieve. His investment in his characters and their voices, and the way he mixes the intimate and the universal, allows his work to achieve what only truly great literature can: it reveals truths to the reader they would not otherwise have seen.
If The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go are his two undisputed masterpieces – my own favourite moment in his work is the final chapter of The Buried Giant. Without offering any spoilers, it is there in his most recently published pages that I think you can find the embodiment of everything that is so unique about his writing: understated, devastating, beautiful, slightly elusive, it is one of the most perfect endings to a novel I can remember. Bravo for Ish, for his extraordinary writing, and for a career that is still only eight books young.