Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Kazuo Ishiguro Biography

In order to better understand the general theme of cultural exclusivity concerning the novel The Remains of the Day, I have compiled a brief biography of the author Kazuo Ishiguro.

Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan on November 8, 1954. When his father attained the position as a researcher for the National Institute of Oceanography in 1960, Ishiguro and his family moved to Britain. There, Ishiguro continued his education through the British system at a grammar school for boys in Surrey. Although he left Japan at a tender age, he still feels the significant influence Japanese culture had on his life. “Nagasaki is not just a few hazy images. I remember it as a real chunk of my life,” Ishiguro told The Guardian in an interview, which ran on February 19, 2005. It was later decided when Ishiguro was fifteen that the family would remain in England permanently when his father declined a position at a university in Tokyo. Although his family ultimately settled in England, Ishiguro's parents, “didn't have the mentality of immigrants because they always thought they would go home at some stage.” Thus, Ishiguro and his two sisters, Fumiko and Yoko, were often sent material by their relatives that would continue their Japanese education. Although Ishiguro's parents have remained in the same area for a great number of years, he states that, “they still very much think of themselves as Japanese and still find it interesting to discuss 'the English.'”

Ishiguro himself still holds significant ties to his Japanese heritage. After publishing his first novel in 1983, he attained British citizenship after he was included in the best of young British writers without actually being a British citizen. After this event, he made the practical decision to apply for citizenship under his reasoning that, “I felt British and my future was in Britain. And [British citizenship] would also make me eligible for literary awards. But I still think I'm regarded as one of their own in Japan."

Acclaimed Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami also sees Ishiguro and his work as, “one of their own” in the eyes of the Japanese. “Partly it's because they are great books, but also because we find a particular kind of sincere and tender quality in his fiction, which happens to be familiar and natural to us.” It matters not that Ishiguro does not identify exclusively with his Japanese heritage, for Murakami states that in Ishiguro's work, “the place could be anywhere, the character could be anybody and the time could be any time. Everything supposed to be real could be unreal, and vice versa. It is a sensation I love and I only receive it when I read his books.”

After grammar school, Ishiguro attended the University of Kent receiving a B.A. with honours and later continued his education with a M.A. from the University of East Anglia. It wasn't until the early 1980s that Ishiguro began his career in writing. Ishiguro's work has earned many notable decorations and it was with his third novel, The Remains of the Day (1989) that Ishiguro won one of the most coveted literary awards, the Booker Prize. Ishiguro currently resides in London with his wife, Lorna and daughter, Naomi.



skram said...

Murakami's interest in Ishiguro's literary abilities is relevant to our course, as we are also studying Murakami's novel "Norwegian Wood." Reading Murakami's text, especially after reading Ishiguro, I feel both the "real and the unreal" that Murakami states he feels from Ishiguro's text!


skram said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
skram said...

I agree Mel. I also think that Murakami's comment that “the place could be anywhere, the character could be anybody and the time could be any time." is interesting in light of the civilization exclusivity question. Could this character be anywhere at anytime? Or is Stevens a product of a very specific period and location?


skram said...

As one of those who argued that The Remains of the Day is purely English, during our class debate on the English vs. Japanese content of the book, I just have to add a few points here! While Ishiguro expresses ideas and concepts that can be ascribed to the Japanese, there are English counterparts to these ideas and concepts as well. Our answer to the question of whether Stevens was a product of his specific time and place was to point out the elements of the book that are exclusively English.

It might be helpful to consider some of what we came up with. The humanitarianism of Darlington and his associates, as opposed to nationalism, was seen as a British value. The presence of the ancient tramp/hermit/magician at the beginning of Stevens’ journey was recognized as a part of English folkloric tradition. The writer-centricity of the novel was seen as opposite to the Japanese emphasis on how one fits in one’s own culture. Professor Ogden pointed out that the self-uncertainty we see in Stevens is an acknowledged Western and Middleclass trait. One other important point was the emotional response Stevens has to the scenes of nature he observes throughout the book. This was seen to follow in the British tradition of Romanticism.

I think that keeping these in mind, as well as the Japanese concepts we have introduced, will help us to further understand the elements of the Civilization Exclusivity question found in The Remains of the Day.